Scott Hanselman

Optimize for Tiny Victories

September 13, '15 Comments [15] Posted in Productivity
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I was talking with Dawn C. Hayes, a maker and occasional adjunct processor in NYC earlier this week. We were talking about things like motivation and things like biting off more than we can chew when it comes to large projects, as well as estimating how long something will take. She mentioned that it's important to optimize for quick early successes, like getting a student to have an "I got the LED to light up" moment. With today's short attention span internet, you can see that's totally true. Every programming language has a "5 min quick start" dedicated to giving you some sense of accomplishment quickly. But she also pointed out that after the LED Moment students (and everyone ever, says me) always underestimate how long stuff will take. It's easy to describe a project in a few sentences but it might take months or a year to make it a reality.

This is my challenge as well, perhaps it's yours, too. As we talked, I realized that I developed a technique for managing this without realizing it.

I optimize my workflow for lots of tiny victories.

For example, my son and I are working on 3D printing a quadcopter drone. I have no idea what I'm doing, I have no drone experience, and I'm mediocre with electronics. Not to mention I'm dealing with a 7 year old who wants to know why it hasn't taken off yet, forgetting that we just had the idea a minute ago.

I'm mentally breaking it up in work sprints, little dependencies, but in order to stay motivated we're making sure each sprint - whether it's a day or an hour - is a victory as well as a sprint. What can we do to not just move the ball forward but also achieve something. Something small, to be clear. But something we can be excited about, something we can tell mommy about, something we can feel good about.

We're attempting to make a freaking quadcopter and it's very possible we won't succeed. But we soldered two wires together today, and the muiltimeter needle moved, so we're pretty excited about that tiny victory and that's how we're telling the story. It will keep us going until tomorrow's sprint.

Do you do this too? Tell us in the comments.


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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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Review: Dremel 3D Printer and initial impressions of the HP Sprout

September 9, '15 Comments [11] Posted in 3D Printing | Reviews
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HP Sprout and DremelI've been having a blast with my new hobby - 3D Printing. I've only been printing for about 9 months but my kids and I are having fun which is what matters.

I've been using an HP Sprout PC (full review of the Sprout coming soon) along with a Dremel 3D Printer to build stuff with the boys. The Sprout is interesting not just for it's form-factor and Intel RealSense camera but also its 3D scanning platform. I don't have the platform yet but I have one on order. The idea is that the platform rotates the object to be scanned while the Intel 3D camera gets depth information, along with structured light scanning and a second 14 megapixels camera capturing textures.  I've got a video here showing the scanning of a teapot. The scans are not perfect, but the scans are a great kickstart for a new project. I'll cover the 3D scanner and HP Sprout more in another separate post, but I will say that it's very fast (an i7!) with a great touchscreen AND a projector with touch mat, so it's effectively a multimonitor multitouch two screen system. My wife has been "scanning" bills with it, while my boys have been spending many hour making StopMotion videos with their LEGOs.

Dremel 3D Printer

In this post I want to focus on the Dremel 3D printer. I've used a Printrbot for several months and have been very happy with it. It's definitely a hobbyist/hacker machine. Many people choose to build a Printrbot from a kit, not just to save money, but also to (forgive me) build one's own lightsaber.

The Dremel feels more Consumer, or at least, Prosumer. While the Printrbot required a few hours before I was printing a basic object, with the Dremel I was printing within 15 minutes. No joke. Now, for a non-techie that might be an hour or so, but seriously, I unboxed it, leveled the bed, and pressed Build on the touchscreen.

The Dremel uses PLA and a non-heated bed. There's special Dremel 3D Build Sheets, essentially like "BuildTak," that adhere to the bed. You also should (you don't have to, but it's easier) use Dremel's filament. Why?

Let's unpack a few things here. No heated bed, use their filament, and just PLA. For the pro this might give you initial pause. But let me tell you - the prints are amazing. Here's a close up.

My first @dremel 3d print. Was absolutely perfect and very smooth first try. #GoMakeThings

A photo posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

This is the very first print. The filament runs at a much hotter temperature than I'm used to with PLA. They run it at 220C when I use 180C on my Printrbot. In the Dremel Reddit AMA they mentioned that all this is to maintain "it just works" quality, and I can say now after having printed about 40 things with the Dremel and am currently on my 4th Filament roll that it does just work. I have had one iffy print in 40 prints and it's still usable. Their build tape REALLY works, even with large surfaces. I have had no peeling up or warping.

Here's a video of the Dremel in action.

Video of the @dremeltools 3D printer in action. #GoMakeThings

A video posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

And here's a pencil holder that turned out great.

Just had a 4 hour 3D Print finish on the @dremel printer. #GoMakeThings

A photo posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

My 7 year old and I wanted to see how far we can push this printer so we are currently trying to print a Crossfire 2 Quadcopter. This is a complex print with over a dozen parts in tight tolerances that will be put under stress (assuming we get it to fly) so it seems like a reasonable test.

So far it's coming out nicely and it's huge. The Printrbot Simple Metal is a great printer with a 6"x6"x6" bed but this is where I really appreciate Dremel's 9"x5.9"x5.5" bed size. You can see the quadcopter's legs below. We're printing two in black so we can tell the copter's front from its back.

In this pic you can see the size difference between the Printrbot and the Dremel. The Dremel is like a small microwave. It's enclosed (which is really nice) and maintains its inner temperature nicely during the print which may be why it hasn't needed the heated bed. At 220C and a very warm inner environment I have had no peeling or sticking issues.

A Dremel 3D Printer printing a Quadcopter

The last quirk about the Dremel that was interesting was that you don't get direct access to it from any app and you can't send it gcode (raw instructions). Instead you use their Dremel all to import STLs and then export them to their g3drem format. This concerned me originally, but opening the g3drem file in notepad shows that it's simply gcode with a small thumbnail image prepended in front. This is a nice touch as the Dremel has a small color touchscreen that shows you what you're going to print.

The standard workflow is simply:

  1. Design or download an STL however you like.
  2. Optional: If it needs supports, open in Meshmixer and add supports. Click Send to Printer.
  3. Dremel 3D opens the exported (with supports) STL file. Click Build to save a g3drem to an SD card.
  4. Take the SD card to the Dremel, click Build on the touchscreen and print!

I continue to use both the Printrbot and the Dremel day to day. I've added/upgraded the Printrbot with a heated bed so I can print ABS plastic as well as PLA, but I've turned to the Dremel as my "daily driver" due to its rock solid reliability. I can definitely recommend the Dremel as a good beginner 3D printer for families, classrooms, or hobbyists. While it's not hackable, it's not meant to be. It Just Works and does exactly what it's advertised to do.

I'll blog in the future as our quadcopter build continues!

3D scanning with #SproutByHP. @hp. Really insane.

A video posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

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Disclosure of Material Connection: HP sent me this Sprout and Printer in the hope that I would review it on my blog and because I've been talking actively about 3D Printing and Maker Culture. Regardless, I only talk enthusiastically about products or services I would use and think you would find useful. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Sponsor: Big thanks to my friends at Raygun for sponsoring the feed this week. Only 16% of people will try a failing app more than twice. Raygun offers real-time error and crash reporting for your web and mobile apps that you can set up in minutes. Find out more and get started for free here.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Butterfly Effect of Technology Community

September 4, '15 Comments [16] Posted in Musings
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Butterfly Effect by Rhett Maxwell used under CC

The Butterfly Effect is everywhere, truly. The best part is, due to confirmation bias, once you start looking for it you'll see it everywhere. ;)

The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. - Chaos Theory

If you see something cool, share it. If you learn something interesting, share it, and share it in multiple ways. Even a small thing can add up to a big payoff.

I got a great email from a reader this week from Neil of TheSmartFinish. Neil has a small business doing woodworking for connected homes and creates decorative mounts for Nest Thermostats. I have a Nest so Neil reached out to share what he's created.

I tweeted about it. A tiny thing, to be clear. I don't tweet about everything, and I DO get a lot of requests for tweets. My tweets are at my discretion, and I read about it, and shared it.

After a while I thought that Nest should be featuring his stuff themselves. A random tweet from me only goes so far, so I publically told @nest they should feature/RT Neil's stuff. At this point, my butterfly has flapped its wings and I've moved on.


Fast forward and I get the email from Neil. These tweets got some attention and @nest DID actually tweet about him!


This gave him valuable legitimacy and ultimately there was a great article on his project at VentureBeat. Other than the poor title as there are no "ex-marines" - Meet the ex-marine who builds artisanal mounts for connected homes - it's a cool write-up. Now his business is starting to get some new visibility, which is great!

Why am I sharing this story? Absolutely not to toot any horns - certainly not mine - but rather to remind us all about the power of the little things.

I've received hundreds of emails over the last few years with folks sharing stories about "I read this and it got me thinking about" or "listening to this podcast made me quit my job and move overseas" or "my spouse and I were inspired by this post and I switched jobs" and on and on. One reader started a Diabetes non-profit after reading a blog post. Another changed her job and has moved into an industry she really believes in. You might tweet a job opening but never realize that it was the beginning of a move across the country for someone you'll never meet!

I'm a firm believer of the idea that if you put good out there, good stuff will happen. What we do with our tweets, blogs, presentations, podcasts, and books is tiny. We fly our little butterfly wings and try to influence and motivate. What's really amazing are the powerful hurricanes that YOU, Dear Reader, harness for positive change in your life and in the lives of others.

Please, share your Butterfly Effect Stories in the comments! What small things have propelled a huge change in your life?

* Butterfly Effect Photo by Rhett Maxwell used under CC


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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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Our great big 15 year vow renewal

September 1, '15 Comments [24] Posted in Musings
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Mo at the first weddingYou may have noticed that I'm on vacation these last few weeks. It's the first vacation of any length I've had in a while. In fact, I do have trouble disconnecting sometimes.

I've mentioned before that my wife and I have gotten married a few times. As my wife is a Zimbabwean there was the matter of lobola and a judge wedding, a white wedding, a wedding in Zim, and on and on. We like weddings.

My friend said that my wife and I are the "most gettingmarriedest people" she knows. I think everyone should get married at least a few times, and even better if it's to the same person over and over. ;)

This vacation was our 15 year anniversary so we decided to get married again! We organized a 15 year vow renewal and invited a ton of people. Folks came from South Africa, Haiti, New York, LA, Washington, and all points in between. We had a blast, we ate, we danced, we talked for hours. We put together a retrospective photoshow and a Spotify Playlist (some songs aren't available or are local MP3s) that is representative of our diverse tastes and the last decade and a half.

Last one! Dances at our 15yr vow renewal? Cha Cha slide, Nae Nae, Whip, Cupid Shuffle, Azonto...

A photo posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

Our 15 year vow renewal cake

A photo posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

Our wedding party at our 15 year vow renewal!

A photo posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

Podcasts

I'd also encourage you to check out the two episodes of The Hanselminutes Podcast where my wife joined me.

And yes, I know the book http://www.relationshiphacks.com is insanely late. It's paused, but it's in my mind. We have 6 chapters and have shopped it around and I just need to take another vacation and get the remaining chapters out of my head. Sorry.


Sponsor: Many thanks to Accusoft for sponsoring the feed this week. If you haven’t yet, check out their Prizm Content Connect, an HTML5 document viewer that allows you to view and edit documents directly in your browser.

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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On Disconnecting

August 26, '15 Comments [60] Posted in Musings
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Yes, I'm writing a blog post about disconnecting from technology. No, the irony is not lost on me. ;)

Storm Trooper on Vacation by JD Hancock used under CC

 

Disconnecting can be hard for a number of reasons, in my experience. There's the usual obvious stuff like the fact that we're literally addicted to the serotonin rush of social media's faux urgency, but there's also aspects that aren't talked about as much. Like, will I have a job when I get back?

I know it's silly to say (or at least, I think it's silly to say) but I still think about the day to day stuff at work and wonder "well, if I leave, who will do it?" Now, hang back, this isn't about me, it's about irrational feelings, so bear with the post. I'm certainly not irreplaceable, none of us are, but I think it's common to feel a combination of feelings like:

  • Who will work on Project X without me?

This implies I'm either the only one, or the best suited. Then there's the opposite:

  • What happens if I'm gone so long that they realize they never needed me at all?

Sometimes on vacation I feel both of these things. They are irrational, but that doesn't make them any less real.

The hardest part about going on vacation isn't the disconnecting, for me, it's the realizing that I'm supposed to go on vacation.

What do YOU think about vacation, Dear Reader? Am I alone in my thoughts here?

* Photo "Stormtrooper on Vacation by JD Hancock used under CC


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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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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.