Scott Hanselman

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite SECOND GENERATION Review - plus new Kindle Software Update

April 10, '14 Comments [21] Posted in Reviews
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I'm a longtime Kindle fan. Love it. It's not a tablet, not a computer, my Paperwhite Kindle represents books for me.

I have a first-generation Kindle Paperwhite and use it almost every day. It's my go-to reading device. I originally gave it a mixed review but the game-changer was the addition of the magnetic cover, specifically the Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover in Black. The Kindle turns on and off when it opens and closes, which is lovely, but the important point is the thickness it adds to the bezel. For my hands, a Paperwhite is an insubstantial thing that's too small to hold comfortably. This cover adds just a fraction of an inch all around the Kindle and effectively the cover subsumes the Kindle. The cover melds with the Kindle in a firm and crisp way and you'll never take it off. It's perfectly sized, plus protected enough that I throw it in my bag without worry.

I recently came into possession of a second-generation Kindle Paperwhite and didn't know what to make of it. It's "one better" right? It's the new version. It looks the same.

The main improvement they say is a clearer and higher-contrast display. Here are my 1st and 2nd gen Kindles next to each other, which is the Second Generation Paperwhite?

amazon kindle paperwhite comparison

There's a little glare here but the second gen has a whiter background and darker blacks.

The first gen has a fantastic screen...

photo 4

But the second gen has darker blacks and crisper text.

photo 5

The second generation is definitely faster, they say 25% faster. Turning pages is quicker and the screen updates faster. The new updated software also includes a fast "skim" ability so you can move WAY faster around a book to find your place.

They also added GoodReads (a social network for readers) integration directly into the Kindle. This is a fun way to discover new books and see what your friends are reading.

It also includes "Kindle Freetime," a special mode for kids where you can limit the books they see and tracks their reading time, as well as set goals for the number of minutes they read each day.

Upgrade your Kindle Software

Speed and clarity is nice but the most dramatic difference was the software. This new 2nd gen Kindle had a bunch of new software features that my 1st didn't have. Unacceptable! ;) I checked, and I can get many of these new features by manually upgrading my Kindle's software.

If you have a Kindle, head over to https://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates and get updated. Most Kindles update themselves, but more and more I'm seeing that these updates roll out either slowly, or not at all. My first-gen was many versions behind.

It's a basic process, just connect a USB cable and drag the update file into the ROOT (top) of the Kindle Directory. Disconnect and reboot and wait.

Now both my 1st and 2nd gen Kindle Paperwhite's share the same software features!

Conclusion

It's not a "must upgrade" but it's a nice generational step. If you don't have a Kindle reader, this is a great Kindle. If you're a fan (as I am) and your partner needs a Kindle, get a new 2nd gen and pass the 1st gen along with updated software. Everyone wins.

Related Links

* FYI: I use Amazon affiliate links


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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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NuGet Package of the Week: Humanizer makes .NET data types more human

April 9, '14 Comments [38] Posted in NuGetPOW | Open Source
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The .NET BCL (Base Class Library) moves too slow, IMHO. That's why NuGet and NuGet packages are so nice. It's a joy to find a "rightly sized" library like NodaTime, for example. It's a better date and time API for .NET. Microsoft should just use it, it's lovely.

Another nicely-sized Open Source library, and the focus for today's blog post, is Humanizer from http://humanizr.net. They say "Humanizer meets all your .NET needs for manipulating and displaying strings, enums, dates, times, timespans, numbers and quantities" and it does just that.

Install-Package Humanizer

It's a lovely joy of a library and you should check it out. Just make yourself a console app now and install-package Humanizer, and explore.

Note: Be sure to check out all the NuGet packages of the week! There's more!

The word "Humanize" evokes, for me, a feeling of making something simpler, more accessible, more useful, more fluent, more flexible.

Here's some great examples of problems that Humanizer solves.

First, Humanzer has a LOT of extension methods to the string type. If you've got a funky string, it will turn it into as close to a normally-cased sentence as possible. This is even more useful if you're using BDD frameworks like BDDfy.

"PascalCaseInputStringIsTurnedIntoSentence".Humanize() => "Pascal case input string is turned into sentence"

"Underscored_input_string_is_turned_into_sentence".Humanize() => "Underscored input string is turned into sentence"

// acronyms are left intact
"HTML".Humanize() => "HTML"

"Can_return_title_Case".Humanize(LetterCasing.Title) => "Can Return Title Case"

"CanReturnLowerCase".Humanize(LetterCasing.LowerCase) => "can return lower case"

There's dozens of great string methods, but it's the DateTime extension methods that really shine. These will feel familiar to Rails developers and Twitter users.

DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(-30).Humanize() => "yesterday"
DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(-2).Humanize() => "2 hours ago"

DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(30).Humanize() => "tomorrow"
DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(2).Humanize() => "2 hours from now"

TimeSpan.FromMilliseconds(1299630020).Humanize() => "2 weeks"
TimeSpan.FromMilliseconds(1299630020).Humanize(3) => "2 weeks, 1 day, 1 hour"

Pluralization libraries are always fun, as I've blogged before and Humanizer doesn't disappoint. You can pluralize and singularlize strings, but the "To Quantity" methods are fantastic, doing exactly what you'd expect, even if you do something odd:

"men".ToQuantity(2) => "2 men"
"process".ToQuantity(2) => "2 processes"
"process".ToQuantity(1) => "1 process"
"processes".ToQuantity(1) => "1 process"
"case".ToQuantity(0) => "0 cases"
"case".ToQuantity(1) => "1 case"

Even as words!

"case".ToQuantity(5, ShowQuantityAs.Words) => "five cases"

The Number to Words family of methods go even further:

3501.ToWords() => "three thousand five hundred and one"
121.ToOrdinalWords() => "hundred and twenty first"
8.ToRoman() => "VIII"

We've all written a truncate method to take a long string and add "..." at the end.

"Long text to truncate".Truncate(6, Truncator.FixedNumberOfCharacters) => "Long t…"
"Long text to truncate".Truncate(6, "---", Truncator.FixedNumberOfCharacters) => "Lon---"

I'm just scratching the surface of Humanizer, going through it's Getting Started. There's also samples where you can plug it into your own frameworks or deep within ASP.NET MVC and humanize enums, type names, and properties as a way to keep your code DRY.

Humanizer is even starting to support localization to non-English languages, and helping with the localization of Humanizer is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY if you're looking to get into Open Source as well as learning Git and GitHub Flow.

I like open source libraries like this that look like the code we've all written before...except tested and complete. ;) We've all written utilities like this, except as one-of functions. I look forward to NOT writing methods like this in the future, and instead using libraries like Humanizer. I fully plan to use this library in my next project (a startup I'm working on.)

Go take a look at Humanizer and thank the author on Twitter while you're at it!


Sponsor: Big thanks to Novalys for sponsoring the blog feed this week! Check out their security solution that combines authentication and user permissions. Secure access to features and data in most applications & architectures (.NET, Java, C++, SaaS, Web SSO, Cloud...). Try Visual Guard for 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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Adding Two-Factor authentication to an ASP.NET application

April 8, '14 Comments [30] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC
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German Lorenz cipher machine by Timitrius used under CC Attributin

ASP.NET Identity 2.0 was released last month and it's got a number of significant updates and new features that are worth checking out. For historical context, read the "Introduction to ASP.NET Identity" article that includes a lot of background and information on why certain decisions were made, as well as an  overview of some of the goals of ASP.NET Identity 2.0 like:

  • One Identity system for ASP.NET Web Forms, MVC, Web API, and Web Pages
  • Total control over user profile schema.
  • Pluggable storage mechanisms from Windows Azure Storage Table Service to NoSQL databases
  • Unit Testable
  • Claims-based Auth adds more choice over simple role membership
  • Social Logins (MSFT, FB, Google, Twitter, etc)
  • Based on OWIN middleware, ASP.NET Identity has no System.Web dependency

You can watch a video of Pranav Rastogi and I upgrading the ASP.NET Membership systems on an older ASP.NET application to the latest bits. There's also migration docs in detail:

ASP.NET Identity is on CodePlex today (and soon to be open sourced...paperwork) at https://aspnetidentity.codeplex.com/ or access the NuGet feed for nightly builds.

Adding Two-Factor authentication to an ASP.NET application

I recently changed all my accounts online to two-factor auth, and I really recommend you do as well. Here's how to add Two-Factor Auth to an ASP.NET application using Identity 2.0.

You'll have a class that is a UserManager that handles access to users and how they are stored. Inside this manager there's an IIdentityMessageService that you can implement to validate a user with whatever you want, like email, SMS, or a time-based token.

Send Verification Code

Here's an example SmsService where I'm using Twilio to send text messages. Again, you can do whatever you want in your implementation.

public class SmsService : IIdentityMessageService
{
public Task SendAsync(IdentityMessage message)
{
// Plug in your sms service here to send a text message.
message.Destination = Keys.ToPhone; //your number here
var twilio = new TwilioRestClient(Keys.TwilioSid, Keys.TwilioToken);
var result = twilio.SendMessage(Keys.FromPhone, message.Destination, message.Body);

return Task.FromResult(0);
}
}

If I were sending an EmailMessage, I'd do something like this. Note it's just another implementation of the same simple interface:

public class EmailService : IIdentityMessageService
{
public Task SendAsync(IdentityMessage message)
{
string text = message.Body;
string html = message.Body;
//do whatever you want to the message
MailMessage msg = new MailMessage();
msg.From = new MailAddress("scott@hanselman.com");
msg.To.Add(new MailAddress(message.Destination));
msg.Subject = message.Subject;
msg.AlternateViews.Add(AlternateView.CreateAlternateViewFromString(text, null, MediaTypeNames.Text.Plain));
msg.AlternateViews.Add(AlternateView.CreateAlternateViewFromString(html, null, MediaTypeNames.Text.Html));

SmtpClient smtpClient = new SmtpClient("smtp.whatever.net", Convert.ToInt32(587));
System.Net.NetworkCredential credentials = new System.Net.NetworkCredential(Keys.EmailUser, Keys.EMailKey);
smtpClient.Credentials = credentials;
smtpClient.Send(msg);

return Task.FromResult(0);
}
}

In your IdentityConfig.cs you can register as many TwoFactorProviders as you'd like. I'm adding both Email and Sms here. They include token providers but again, everything is pluggable.

manager.RegisterTwoFactorProvider("PhoneCode", new PhoneNumberTokenProvider<ApplicationUser> {
MessageFormat = "Your security code is: {0}"
});
manager.RegisterTwoFactorProvider("EmailCode", new EmailTokenProvider<ApplicationUser> {
Subject = "SecurityCode",
BodyFormat = "Your security code is {0}"
});

manager.EmailService = new EmailService();
manager.SmsService = new SmsService();

If a user tries to login you need to make sure they are a VerifiedUser. If not, get a valid two factor provider and send them a code to validate. In this case, since there are two providers to choice from, I let them pick from a dropdown. Here's the POST to /Account/SendCode:

public async Task<ActionResult> SendCode(SendCodeViewModel model)
{
// Generate the token and send it
if (!ModelState.IsValid)
{
return View();
}

if (!await SignInHelper.SendTwoFactorCode(model.SelectedProvider))
{
return View("Error");
}
return RedirectToAction("VerifyCode", new { Provider = model.SelectedProvider, ReturnUrl = model.ReturnUrl });
}

The sender of the two factor code depends on your implementation, of course.

public async Task<bool> SendTwoFactorCode(string provider)
{
var userId = await GetVerifiedUserIdAsync();
if (userId == null)
{
return false;
}

var token = await UserManager.GenerateTwoFactorTokenAsync(userId, provider);
// See IdentityConfig.cs to plug in Email/SMS services to actually send the code
await UserManager.NotifyTwoFactorTokenAsync(userId, provider, token);
return true;
}

When it's time to get the code from them, they need to have logged in with name and password already, and we're now checking the code:

[AllowAnonymous]
public async Task<ActionResult> VerifyCode(string provider, string returnUrl)
{
// Require that the user has already logged in via username/password or external login
if (!await SignInHelper.HasBeenVerified())
{
return View("Error");
}
var user = await UserManager.FindByIdAsync(await SignInHelper.GetVerifiedUserIdAsync());
return View(new VerifyCodeViewModel { Provider = provider, ReturnUrl = returnUrl });
}

We can sign users potentially a number of ways, like with External Sign Ins (Twitter, etc) but here's the TwoFactorSignIn

public async Task<SignInStatus> TwoFactorSignIn(string provider, string code, bool isPersistent, bool rememberBrowser)
{
var userId = await GetVerifiedUserIdAsync();
if (userId == null)
{
return SignInStatus.Failure;
}
var user = await UserManager.FindByIdAsync(userId);
if (user == null)
{
return SignInStatus.Failure;
}
if (await UserManager.IsLockedOutAsync(user.Id))
{
return SignInStatus.LockedOut;
}
if (await UserManager.VerifyTwoFactorTokenAsync(user.Id, provider, code))
{
// When token is verified correctly, clear the access failed count used for lockout
await UserManager.ResetAccessFailedCountAsync(user.Id);
await SignInAsync(user, isPersistent, rememberBrowser);
return SignInStatus.Success;
}
// If the token is incorrect, record the failure which also may cause the user to be locked out
await UserManager.AccessFailedAsync(user.Id);
return SignInStatus.Failure;
}

If you want this blog post's sample code, make an EMPTY ASP.NET Web Application and run this NuGet command from the Package Manager Console

Install-Package Microsoft.AspNet.Identity.Samples -Pre

Have fun!

Related Links

* Photo of German Lorenz cipher machine by Timitrius used under CC Attribution 


Sponsor: Big thanks to Novalys for sponsoring the blog feed this week! Check out their security solution that combines authentication and user permissions. Secure access to features and data in most applications & architectures (.NET, Java, C++, SaaS, Web SSO, Cloud...). Try Visual Guard for 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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Video Tutorial and Screenshots: Windows 8.1 Update 1

April 3, '14 Comments [51] Posted in Screencasts | Win8
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I have a personal MSDN account so I download and installed the Windows 8.1 Update as soon as I could. It'll roll out to the rest of the world slowly in the coming weeks.

The verdict? It's a significant improvement. I use an X1 Carbon Touch laptop, and while it has a touchscreen, I spend most of my time on the mouse and keyboard. I'm comfortable with moving between Store (fullscreen) apps and Desktop apps but it's always a little jarring. You're leaping between two universes. I want to live in one universe and this Windows update merges them in a measured way that means I'm moving faster when using my computer.

I've just put up a brand new 5 minute YouTube video to give you a tour of just a few of the new features.

After you get the update, you'll notice immediately that the Windows Store - a full screen app, mind you - is pinned to your Windows Desktop's Taskbar. You can now pin any app, desktop or store, to your Taskbar.

Even better, you can close them with a right click, just like you're used to:

Windows Store apps can be pinned to the taskbar

And Windows Store apps like Xbox Music that use the Media Controls can also get taskbar enhancements like the Media Controls within the Taskbar button. Here I'm controlling the music in my Windows Store app while I'm in the desktop. The "universal" music controls also pop up when you press your hardware volume keys as well.

Windows Store apps can modify the jump menu

The Start Screen now includes a power button and search button, always.

Windows Start Screen has a visible power button

If you right click a pinned Tile with the mouse (or Shift-F10 with the keyboard) you'll get the familiar context menu. You can change sizes, pin to the taskbar, and more.

Context Menus are in the Start Menu now

There's also some nice subtle changes and features added. This is great for me as I travel a lot. I can manage my known Wi-Fi networks now. This was in Windows 7 and was either removed or hidden. I even wrote a utility to manage Wireless Networks because of this missing feature. Well, it's back.

Manage known WiFi Networks is back

You can move the mouse to the top of a Windows Store app and a title bar will appear. Click in the left side of that title bar, and you can now control Window Splitting.

You can split windows with mouse clicks from the System Menu

Windows Store apps also get Minimize and Close buttons as well.

Windows Store apps have a minimize and close now

Newly installed apps are easier to find and a notification appears on your Start Screen:

"2 new apps installed" notification on the Start Screen

Fullscreen IE11 also has an option to always show open tabs, useful if you're an "out of sight, out of mind" individual.

IE11 Fullscreen can show open tabs now

All in all, it works surprisingly well. I'm moving around Windows faster than before and actually using more Store apps like Mail and Music.

Free Windows 8 and 8.1 Tutorials

I've made this easy link to my free Windows 8 Tutorials. There's a whole playlist up on YouTube and you can get to them from here: http://hanselman.com/windows8 

Please do pass that link along to family and friends, or via Social Media. Thanks!

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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Analysis Paralysis: Over-thinking and Knowing Too Much to Just CODE

March 30, '14 Comments [106] Posted in Musings
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Pair Programming Photo courtesy of FOCUS100

I read a post on ArsTechnica today called "I know too much to program quickly. What can I do?" that is summary of a StackOverflow question by Zilk, who says:

Lately, I've been noticing that the more experience I gain, the longer it takes me to complete projects, or certain tasks in a project. I'm not going senile yet. It's just that I've seen so many different ways in which things can go wrong. And the potential pitfalls and gotchas that I know about and remember are just getting more and more.

Trivial example: it used to be just "okay, write a file here". Now I'm worrying about permissions, locking, concurrency, atomic operations, indirection/frameworks, different file systems, number of files in a directory, predictable temp file names, the quality of randomness in my PRNG, power shortages in the middle of any operation, an understandable API for what I'm doing, proper documentation, etc etc etc.

This really hit me because THIS IS ME. I was wondering recently if it was age-related, but I'm just not that old to be senile. It's too much experience combined with overthinking. I have more experience than many, but clearly not enough to keep me from suffering from Analysis Paralysis.

I have two side projects I'm doing on vacations and in the evenings when the house is asleep. One is a port of popular iOS application to Windows Phone, the other is a iOS app with a cloud service startup with my buddy Greg. Both projects have had awesome beginnings and then stalled when things just got overwhelming.

I kept starting features, the stalling. I felt like I was thrashing to disk, spending more time swapping ideas around in my head rather than just doing them. I'm still getting lots of things done, in general, I'm productive, but when I code I just thrash.

I'm overthinking stuff. "Write settings to a file" turns into a mess of paranoia around concurrency situations, upgrading settings from previous versions of the app (that don't exist, mind you), and it just snowballs from there. It's not exactly scope creep, but it's a kind of architectural paranoia. I see so many issues and possible bugs that I've learned over the years that could derail a feature that I end up derailing the feature.

YAGNI

The answer, they say, is You Aren't Gonna Need It. "Perfect is the enemy of the good" reminds user Telastyn.  These are easy to intellectualize but hard to internalize. User Mouviciel says:

Looks like you are not experienced enough :). The next lesson is: stick to requirements, not more.

I get that, but me, I often need another brain to complement my own.

How I Solve Overthinking

I learned about Agile from James Shore while I was working at Corillian some years ago, but it's Pairing that resonates with me the most. With a good pair, you'll get 3 times the work, not double.

I worked my way through both these startup issues by bringing in another brain. I'm not the best programmer, but I do OK. But somehow we are both better when we pair. I paired with Greg on the iOS and my new friend Jan Hanneman on the other. They are both clearly better coders than I, which is intimidating, but I'm still sure I provide value. What they gave me was a fresh perspective and a focus to say "YAGNI" and just get features done. The ironic part is, if I'm brought in on a project to pair, that's what I bring also.

My wife thinks this is hilarious. It's the old relationship joke where your partner says something for years and years, then one day you rush home from work to share this amazing new "insight" from a stranger...the same insight your partner has been sharing all this time.

Since I work remotely, all my Pair Programming has to happen over video chat and screen sharing. I use Skype, Lync, Join.me, and whatever else works. We take turns working through features in Trello boards, sharing one person's screen, talking and coding, designing and brainstorming, then commiting to Git, syncing, and switching the share.

This seems to work well for sessions as long as 3 hours, but after that, we get pretty wasted. However the feeling of accomplishment when you work through a problem with a partner is also magnified.

Does your coding life get paralyzed? How do YOU work through it?

* Photo courtesy of FOCUS100

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.