Scott Hanselman

Announcing WPF, WinForms, and WinUI are going Open Source

December 4, '18 Comments [31] Posted in Open Source | Windows Client | WPF
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Buckle up friends! Microsoft is open sourcing WPF, Windows Forms (winforms), and WinUI, so the three major Windows UX technologies are going open source! All this is happening on the same day as .NET Core 3.0 Preview 1 is announced. Madness! ;)

.NET Core 3 is a major update which adds support for building Windows desktop applications using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Forms, and Entity Framework 6 (EF6). Note that .NET Core 3 continues to be open source and runs on Windows, Linux, Mac, in containers, and in the cloud. In the case of WPF/WinForms/etc you'll be able to create apps for Windows that include (if you like) their own copy of .NET Core for a clean side-by-side install and even faster apps at run time. The Windows UI XAML Library (WinUI) is also being open sourced AND you can use these controls in any Windows UI framework.

That means your (or my!) WPF/WinForms/WinUI apps can all use the same controls if you like, using XAML Islands. I could take the now 10 year old BabySmash WPF app and add support for pens, improved touch, or whatever makes me happy!

WPF and Windows Forms projects are run under the .NET Foundation which also announced changes today and the community will guide foundation operations. The .NET Foundation is also changing its governance model by increasing the number of board members to 7, with just 1 appointed by Microsoft. The other board members will be voted on by the community! Anyone who has contributed to a .NET Foundation project can run, similar to how the Gnome Foundation works! Learn more about the .NET Foundation here.

On the runtime and versioning side, here's a really important point from the .NET blog that's worth emphasizing IMHO:

Know that if you have existing .NET Framework apps that there is not pressure to port them to .NET Core. We will be adding features to .NET Framework 4.8 to support new desktop scenarios. While we do recommend that new desktop apps should consider targeting .NET Core, the .NET Framework will keep the high compatibility bar and will provide support for your apps for a very long time to come.

I think of it this way. If you’ve got an existing app that you’re happy with, there is no reason to port this to .NET Core. Microsoft will support the .NET Framework for a very long time, given that it’s a part of Windows. But post .NET Framework 4.8. new features will usually only become available in .NET Core because Microsoft is drastically reducing the risk and thus rate of change for .NET Framework. So if you’re building a new app or you’re actively evolving an existing app you should really start looking at .NET Core. Porting to .NET Core certainly isn’t free, but it offers many benefits, such as better performance, XCOPY deployment for the framework itself, and feature set that is growing fast, thanks to open source. Choose the strategy that makes sense for your project and/or business.

I don't want to hear any of this "this is dead, only use that" nonsense. We just open sourced WinForms and have already taken Pull Requests. WinForms has been updated for 4k+ displays! WPF is open source, y'all! Think about the .NET Standard and how you can run standard libraries on .NET Framework, .NET Core, and Mono - or any ".NET" that's out there. Mono is enabling running .NET Standard libraries via WebAssembly. To be clear - your browser is now .NET Standard capable! There are open source projects like https://platform.uno/ and Avalonia and Ooui taking .NET in new and interesting places. Blazor makes Web UIs in .NET with (preview/experimental) client support with Web Assembly and server support included in .NET 3.0 with Razor Components. Only good things are coming, my friends!

.NET ALL THE THINGS

.NET Core runs on Raspberry Pi and ARM processors! .NET Core supports serial ports, IoT devices, and there's even a System.Device.GPIO (General Purpose I/O) package! Go explore https://github.com/dotnet/iot to really get your head around how much cool stuff is happening in the .NET space.

I want to encourage you to go check out Matt Warren's extremely well-researched post "Open Source .NET - 4 years later" to get a real visceral sense of how far we've come as a community. You'll be amazed!

Now, go play!

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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On Developer Advocacy

November 30, '18 Comments [4] Posted in Musings
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TeamworkNaming things is hard. I've talked before about the term "evangelism" and my dislike for it. Evangelism, Advocacy, Developer Relations, PR, Marketing, and on and on. More and more I'm just trying to educate and maybe entertain a little. So I like Edutainment, myself, hat tip to KRS-One.

I'm getting on a plane tomorrow to go to the Microsoft Azure + AI Conference @DevIntersection and the Free Microsoft Connect 2018 Event (you can watch online all day!) and as I was packing I was struck with a few thoughts I wanted to share here.

What a privilege it is to speak about products that so many people have worked on and (hopefully) so many people will enjoy. Especially ones as large as Azure or Visual Studio - thousands of people work so hard! Engineers, Program Managers, Testers, Community Members...people from all over working on each release so a select few of us get on stage to share it with you! And who am I to have this privilege?

Don't think for a second that when you're giving a technical talk that it's about you. You're sitting on a stack of software you had a small part in writing and standing on the shoulders of giants of generations of engineers and creators who came before you. When I do talks where I'm representing a huge group I reflect on this with gratitude.

If you work on any of the products I'm showing, know this; I may be one of the talking heads or a visible grand marshal but we work for you and we never forget it. My job at events like this is to make the product - your work - shine. I take that job very seriously, and if it looks like it's effortless, that's because of the massive amount of work we put into the presentation. Hours of practice, story arcs, literally blocking movement as if it were a play or stage show, camera work, and transitions. Deeping understanding what we're presenting and why it's awesome and why you're proud of it.

I'm writing this note for all the other advocates and visible community members.

What a joy and privilege it is to stand up and represent our co-workers and follow engineers and to tell the stories of the things they build!

Let that privilege both put motivation in you and propel you forward to present their work - your teams' work.

I appreciate you all, both inside and out, and I'll will do my best to represent your team and the larger community to the best of my ability.


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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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The 2018 Christmas List of Best STEM Toys for Kids

November 28, '18 Comments [11] Posted in Reviews
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Hey friends! This is my FIFTH year doing a list of Great STEM Christmas Toys for Kids! Can you believe it? In case you missed them, here's the previous years' lists! Be aware I use Amazon referral links so I get a little kickback (and you support this blog!) when you use these links. I'll be using the pocket money to...wait for it...buy STEM toys for kids! So thanks in advance!

OK, let's do it!

littleBits

I've always liked littleBits but when they first came out I thought they were expensive and didn't include enough stuff. Fast forward and littleBits have dropped in price and built a whole ecosystem of littleBits that work together. This year the most fun is the littleBits Marvel Avengers Inventor Kit. At the time of this writing, this kit is 33% off at Amazon. You can built your own Iron Man (or Ironheart!) gauntlet and load it up with littleBits that can do whatever you'd like. One particularly cool thing included is an LED Matrix that you can address directly by writing code with the iOS or Android app.

littleBits Marvel Avengers Inventor Kit

Kano - Computer Kit and Wand

Both my kids love the Kano Computer Kit, now updated for 2018. It's a complete Raspberry Pi 3 kit that includes the keyboard, mouse, case, LED lights, and everything you'd need to build a Pi. This year they've branched out to the Kano Happy Potter Coding Kit that you can use to build a wand and learn to code. The "wand" is a custom PCB with codeable LEDs, buttons, and batteries that the kids put inside a wand. The wand is Bluetooth and includes lots of tech like an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and a vibrating rumble pack. All of this tech is controllable with laptops or smart devices and code with JavaScript.

Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit and Wand

UbTech JIMU Robot - Unicornbot Kit

UbTech has a whole series of Technics-style Robot kits. There's the usual tanks and cars, but there's also some more creative and "out there" ones like this 400-piece Unicorn Robot. It includes color sensors, server motors, a DC motor, and a light up horn. It's also codeable/controllable via an iOS or Android app. Very cool!

I'd really like their Lynx Alexa controllable walking robot but it's way out of my price range. Still fun to check out though!

Unicornbot

Erector by Meccano Kits

We've found these Erector by Meccano Kits to be inexpensive and well-built. The 25-in-1 kit is great and includes a container and over 600 pieces. I like these metal kits because they feel like the ones I had in my childhood. Kids learn how to use motors, pulleys, and other explore functional motion.

Erector Set

Osmo Genius Kit for iPad

The Osmo Genius is quite clever and based on one deceptively simple idea - what if the iPad camera faced downward and could see the table in front of the child? It came with a base and a reflector that directs the front-facing camera downwards. Then the educational games are written to see what's happening on the table and provide near-instant feedback. You can start with the base kit and later optionally add kits and games.

Osmo Genius Kit for iPad

Elenco 130-in-1 Electronic Playground and Learning Center

I like classic toys and while toys with bluetooth and fancy features are cool, I want to balance it out with the classics that let you explore the physical world. These also tend to be more affordable as well.

I really like this classic electronic trainer with 130 experiments like an AM broadcast station, Electronic Organ, LED strobe light, Timer, Logic Circuits and much, much more. The 50-in-One version is just $16! Frankly all the Elenco products are fantastic.

image

Piper Computer Kit (2018 Edition)

I had this on the list last year but my kids still love it. We have the 2016 kit and it's been updated for 2018.

The Piper is a little spendy at first glance, but it's EXTREMELY complete and very thoughtfully created. Sure, you can just get a Raspberry Pi and hack on it - but the Piper is not just a Pi. It's a complete kit where your little one builds their own wooden "laptop" box (more of a luggable), and then starting with just a single button, builds up the computer. The Minecraft content isn't just vanilla Microsoft. It's custom episodic content! Custom voice overs, episodes, and challenges.

What's genius about Piper, though, is how the software world interacts with the hardware. For example, at one point you're looking for treasure on a Minecraft beach. The Piper suggests you need a treasure detector, so you learn about wiring and LEDs and wire up a treasure detector LED while it's running. Then you run your Minecraft person around while the LED blinks faster to detect treasure. It's absolute genius. Definitely a favorite in our house for the 8-12 year old set.

Piper Raspberry Pi Kit

I hope you have a great holiday season!

FYI: These Amazon links are referral links. When you use them I get a tiny percentage. It adds up to taco money for me and the kids! I appreciate you - and you appreciate me-  when you use these links to buy stuff.


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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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Upgrading the DakBoard Family Calendar with Raspberry Pi Zero W and Read Only filesystem

November 23, '18 Comments [10] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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Raspberry Pi Zeros are SMALLEarlier this week I built a Family Calendar using a used flat screen monitor and a Raspberry Pi 3 I had lying around and documented it in my post How to build a Wall Mounted Family Calendar and Dashboard with a Raspberry Pi and cheap monitor.

Eric Brown added two great comments (the comments on my blog are always better than the content!) He said:

  • You can save power & money by using an Pi Zero W instead.
  • This is likely overkill, but I took the time to get the Pi Zero to mount the SD card read-only and do all the writes to a RAM disk.

Eric said "RPis are surprisingly sensitive to power glitches, and will often corrupt the SD card" and that "after mounting the SD read-only, my DakBoard has been running stably for months; before doing that, it corrupted the SD card within 6 weeks."

While I haven't had any issues with my Raspberry Pis, this seemed like a fun "version 2" of the calendar to make with the kids. Worst case scenario? Now I have LCD family calendars!

You'll recall I commented about how important the Spouse Acceptance Factor is whenever introducing new technology into the house.

It has to just work. If my Spouse doesn't like the idea or find its not reliable, the SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor) will be low and they'll want to get rid of it. All it takes is one "why isn't this working" and I'm dead in the water.

I checked Amazon and found a number of Raspberry Pi Zero W (W is for Wireless, important!) Kits for around US$20. You can see in the picture above how SMALL a Raspberry Pi Zero W is (with LEGO Miss Marvel for scale).

Get the HDMI cables as flush an sanitary as possible

If you have the cables, power supplies, and don't need the headers and extra stuff, I've seen them as low as $10. It's very important to note that a Raspberry Pi Zero W does support HDMI but it has a MINI-HDMI female connector. You'll need a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter or a mini-HDMI to HDMI short cable.

Here's another aside. Did you know there are a LOT of different HDMI connector orientations? Sure, you could just loop a big old 6 foot HDMI cable back there, but where's the fun in that? There are micro HDMI D1,D2,D3 that describe 90 degree and 270 degree rotations of the male. If you want to be really flush, consider a cable (for example like a C2 to A2) that is usually used in drones. This would allow you to mount the Pi Zero W flush against the back of the monitor - or even better, inside the monitor or a wooden picture frame!

Dakboard

Get the Raspberry Pi Zero W on your wireless and avoid the trouble of keyboards and mice!

Pi Zero Ws are so small that they don't have a regular USB connector. There is one for power and one that is "USB OTG." If you want to connect a mouse and keyboard directly to the Zero you'll need this USB OTG Micro to Type A Cable and/or a powered USB hub.

OR!

Save money and prep your Raspberry Pi Micro SD Card with SSH turned on by default and your Wireless Network enabled by default! Then you can set it up remotely as a DakBoard/MagicMirror Family Calendar.

  • Download the Image for Raspbian Stretch. You'll want the desktop version (not Lite) because this IS a visual project, not a headless one!
  • I recommend Etcher for burning images to SD Cards. It's free.
  • Raspberry Pi Zero W and a 1A+ micro USB power supply
  • Cheap micro SD Card. They should include an adapter to plug it into your main computer to prepare.
    • Create an empty file called "ssh" on the prepared Micro SD Card before you put the card in the Raspberry Pi
    • Make a file called wpa_supplicant.conf with Linux line feeds (LF, not the default Windows CR/LF) with content like this (and your own country code)
country=us
update_config=1
ctrl_interface=/var/run/wpa_supplicant

network={
scan_ssid=1
ssid="YourNetworkSSID"
psk="NETWORKPASSWORD!"
}

This will cause the Pi to get on the network on boot up which should allow you to SSH over to it directly, thereby avoiding any trouble with keyboards and mice and the Pi Zero W.

If you DO end up wanted to connect the keyboard and mouse, you'll want a keyboard/mouse setup that is all in one with just one USB adapter or you'll need a Powered USB Hub. This should be temporary as you get the Pi prepared.

Make the Raspberry Pi Zero W readonly - after it's been configured with DakBoard

Once I had the Pi Zero W all prepared I went around the net looking for tutorials to make it readonly. You're basically causing Linux to mount the SD Card readonly and then do all writes to a RAM Disk that will ultimately be tossed whenever you (rarely) reboot. Get it perfect before you go readonly as it's a small hassle to switch back. Or you can pull the card out and mount it on your other computer then return it. Still, not awesome.

Eric from the comments pointed me to a Raspberry Pi Jesse tutorial, but I tried it and it didn't work for me, likely because I'm on Raspbian Stretch, a newer version. There's a LOT of choices and ways to do this but the best tutorial I found was on the page for Domoticz, a n open source Home Automation system which looks, as an aside, awesome and something I need to check out in the future!

For now, I followed these instructions on Setting up overlayFS on Raspberry PI (the "overlay" being the file system you'll write to but it's a fake, the writes are going to one folder and the two foldkers (one read-write and one read-only are overlaid over each other). This allowed me to make a Raspberry Pi Raspbian Stretch system Readonly on my Pi Zero W.

I followed the instructions exactly, only skipping the parts like "Modify domoticz service" that didn't apply. When I run "mount" I can see the main file system is read-only and the others are overlaid and read-write.

pi@dakboard2:~ $ mount
/dev/mmcblk0p7 on / type ext4 (ro,noatime,data=ordered)
snip!
ramdisk on /var_rw type tmpfs (rw,relatime)
ramdisk on /home_rw type tmpfs (rw,relatime)
overlay on /home type overlay (rw,relatime,lowerdir=/home_org,upperdir=/home_rw/upper,workdir=/home_rw/work)
overlay on /var type overlay (rw,relatime,lowerdir=/var_org,upperdir=/var_rw/upper,workdir=/var_rw/work)
So far so good! This will make a smaller and lower power Family Calendar that will hopefully be more reliable as well! Thanks Eric from 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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How to build a Wall Mounted Family Calendar and Dashboard with a Raspberry Pi and cheap monitor

November 21, '18 Comments [8] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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Glanceable DashboardI love dashboards. I love Raspberry Pis (tiny $35 computers the size of a set of playing cards). And I'm cheap frugal. I found a 24" old LCD at Goodwill (a local thrift shop) and bought it but it's been sitting unused in my garage.

Then I stumbled on DakBoard. The idea is simple - A wifi connected wall display for your photos, calendar, news, weather and to-do.

The implementation is simple genius. It's a browser that starts up full screen (kiosk mode) and just sits there and updates occasionally. DakBoard provides the private webpage and tools to make that happen. You can certainly build this yourself with any number of open source tools. I chose DakBoard because it was simple, beautiful, and I was able to get the whole thing done in less than an hour. I'm sure I'll spend many hours tweaking it through. There's also the very popular MagicMIrror platform, so lots of choice and power in this space!

What are some considerations?

  • You may want to turn it off on a scheduled to save power and the screen
    • cronjob - turn it off on a schedule
    • sensor - turn it on when something (your alarm, nest, thermostat motion detector attached to GPIO, etc) detects your presence)
  • It has to act like an appliance. If you are messing with it to keep it alive, it's not an appliance, it's another computer to manage.
  • It has to just work. If my Spouse doesn't like the idea or find its not reliable, the SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor) will be low and they'll want to get rid of it. All it takes is one "why isn't this working" and I'm dead in the water.
  • Finally - What do you want to show?

Someone asked me - "What would I want to put on my dashboard other than a calendar? I don't see why this is useful."

What would you put on a Glance-eable Display?

Family Calendar(s), movie times, temperature, news, my blood sugar, disk free on my NAS, TV schedule, family photos, commute traffic, album releases, homework due soon, family events, trips, flight status, music playing now, literally anything you want as a glance-able display. 

Glanceable Dashboard

Philosophy

You'll want to ask yourself, is this just an iPad on the wall? I'd propose not. In fact, I'd say this is a Wall Mounted Glanceable Display - a personal dashboard - not an interactive thing. I want the family and kids to just stop by, note important information and move on.

It's also worth pointing out the a horizontal monitor on the wall looks like, well, a monitor on the wall. But somehow when it's Portrait it's dramatic. It's not something we are (yet) used to seeing. I may try this out in a few ways, or even make a few of these displays!

How to Build a Raspberry Pi-based Family Calendar

UPDATE - I wrote how to do this with a Raspberry Pi Zero W (smaller and cheaper) and a readonly filesystem (advanced)

It's pretty easy! I used the DakBoard Blog but I had most of the stuff already.

  • Get a $35 Raspberry Pi 3. The 3 is fast and includes Wifi so you don't need an extra adapter.
  • I like a 2.5A powersupply but some folks say you can run the Raspberry Pi off the monitor's USB power - IF that power can put out at least 1A. 500mA will likely cause instability. It depends on if you want to try to get the whole thing down to one power cable.
  • Cheap Micro SD Card - 8 gigs is fine, but get whatever works for you. This doesn't need to be awesome.
  • A 1 foot HDMI cable. You're gonna mount the Raspberry Pi to the back of the monitor and hide it so you want the cable to be as small as possible.
  • And finally - a 24" ish (smaller is fine) LCD (IPS is nice) monitor with smallish bezels and HDMI inputs that go out to the side (NOT directly out the back) as you want this flush on the wall.
    • Think about how you'll mount it. You can take the back off the monitor and use hanging wire OR use a flush VESA mount.

Install Raspbian on the Raspberry Pi. I use Noobs to bootstrap my install as it's super fast and easy. Go through the standard setup. Make sure you've set up:

  • Wifi login
  • Timezone
  • Boot to Desktop automatically
  • install chromium via "sudo apt-get install -y rpi-chromium-mods"

Then you make sure that Chromium starts up full screen, the mouse is hidden, and we're looking at the dashboard! It's super important you don't have to touch it. It's an appliance, right?

sudo nano ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
@xset s off
@xset -dpms
@xset s noblank
@chromium-browser --noerrdialogs --incognito --kiosk http://dakboard.com/app/?p=YOUR_PRIVATE_URL

Then you can set up a cronjob if you want to turn the Pi's screen on and off on a schedule. Using rpi-hdmi.sh you can make a crontab -e that looks like this:

# Turn HDMI Off (22:00/10:00pm)
0 22 * * * /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh off

# Turn HDMI On (7:00/7:00am)
0 7 * * * /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh on 

My family uses Google Calendar (GSuite) to manage hanselman.com, but I use Outlook at work. I also have a lot of business/work crap in my calendar that the family doesn't need to see. So I have two problems here, filtering, and appointment movement between Work and Home.

My wife and kids use Google Calendar and it's their authoritative source. My work calendar is MY authoritative source, so I want to sync Outlook->Google but ONLY including Personal/Podcasts/Travel categories. I categorize in Outlook at work, and then those appointments that are appropriate for the family calendar get moved over. Then the Family Calendar dashboard includes color coordinated items for Mom, Dad, Kid1, Kid2. The kids include homework that's due as appointments.

I use the Outlook Google Calendar Sync open source project to do this calendar movement for me. It does require Outlook and is a client solution so if you have a better idea let me know.

GOTCHA: I have been using Google Calendar for YEARS. I have also been using sync tools like this for years. As such, I was noticing that sometimes DakBoard would timeout asking for my Google Calendar's ICS file. It would take minutes. So I requested it myself and it was 26 megs. It's clear that Google calendar doesn't care deeply about iCal and that's disappointing. This could easily be solved if they'd support some kind of OData like URL-based query for fromdate=, todate=. In this case, the DakBoard was getting 26 megs over and over to just show a few weeks of appointments. I literally had appointments from 2005 in the calendar. I decided that since I'd declared Outlook my authoritative source for my calendar that I'd take an archive (one time snapshot) of my iCal and then delete all my calendar items from Google Calendar and re-sync, one way, from the authoritative source, going back 1 year. I'm likely a rare case but it's worth noting in case you bump into this.

All in all, this can easily be done in a short few hours if you have a Pi and a monitor. The time will be spent making it "sanitary." Making the cables perfect, hanging it on the wall, hiding the cables, then tweaking the screen to be perfect.

Editing screens on DakBoard

DakBoard has a free option that works great, or a Premium subscription that gives you even more control. Again, it depends on your web/art ability, and your patience. This is a fun new world that I'm excited to get involved with and my family is already stoked about this new display as we enter the holiday season.


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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.