Scott Hanselman

Relationship Hacks: Playing video games and having hobbies while avoiding resentment

January 7, '19 Comments [11] Posted in Musings
Sponsored By

Super Nintendo Controller from PexelsI'm going to try to finished my Relationship Hacks book in 2019. I've been sitting on it too long. I'm going to try to use blog posts to spur myself into action.

A number of people asked me what projects, what code, what open source I did over the long holiday. ZERO. I did squat. I played video games, in fact. A bunch of them. I felt a little guilty then I got over it.

The Fun of Finishing - Exploring old games with Xbox Backwards Compatibility

I'm not a big gamer but I like a good story. I do single player with a plot. I consider a well-written video game to be up there with a good book or a great movie. I like a narrative and a beginning and end. Since it was the holidays, it did require some thought to play games.

When you're in a mixed relationship (a geek/techie and a non-techie) you need to be respectful of your partner's expectations. The idea of burning 4-6 hours playing games likely doesn't match up with your partner's idea of a good time. That's where communication comes in. We've found this simple system useful. It's non-gendered and should work for all types of relationships.

My spouse and I sat down at the beginning of our holiday vacation and asked each other "What do you hope to get out of this time?" Setting expectations up front avoids quiet resentment building later. She had a list of to-dos and projects, I wanted to veg.

Sitting around all day (staycation) is valid, as is using the time to take care of business (TCB). We set expectations up front to avoid conflict. We effectively scheduled my veg time so it was planned and accepted and it was *ok and guilt-free*

We've all seen the trope of the gamer hyper-focused on their video game while the resentful partner looks on. My spouse and I want to avoid that - so we do. If she knows I want to immerse myself in a game, a simple heads up goes a LONG way. We sit together, she reads, I play.

It's important to not sneak these times up on your partner. "I was planning on playing all night" can butt up against "I was hoping we'd spend time together." Boom, conflict and quiet resentment can start. Instead, a modicum of planning. A simple headsup and balance helps.

I ended up playing about 2-3 days a week, from around 8-9pm to 2am (so a REAL significant amount of time) while we hung out on the other 4-5 days. My time was after the kids were down. My wife was happy to see me get to play (and finish!) games I'd had for years.

Also, the recognition from my spouse that while she doesn't personal value my gaming time - she values that *I* value it. Avoid belittling or diminishing your partner's hobby. If you do, you'll find yourself pushing (or being pushed) away.

One day perhaps I'll get her hooked on a great game and one day I'll enjoy a Hallmark movie. Or not. ;) But for now, we enjoy knowing and respecting that we each enjoy (and sometimes share) our hobbies. End of thread.

If you enjoy my wife's thinking, check her out on my podcast The Return of Mo. My wife and I also did a full podcast with audio over our Cancer Year 

Hope you find this helpful.


Sponsor: Preview the latest JetBrains Rider with its Assembly Explorer, Git Submodules, SQL language injections, integrated performance profiler and more advanced Unity support.

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Using Visual Studio Code to program Circuit Python with an AdaFruit NeoTrellis M4

December 26, '18 Comments [3] Posted in Hardware | Open Source | Python
Sponsored By

My son and I were working on an Adafruit NeoTrellis M4 Mainboard over the holidays. This amazing little device puts a NeoPixel + an Audio board + a USB port along with a 120 MHz Cortex M4 Core and a mic amplifier and you can program it with CircuitPython. CircuitPython is open source and on Github at https://github.com/adafruit/circuitpython. "CircuitPython is an education friendly open source derivative of MicroPython." It works with a bunch of boards including this NeoTrellis and it's just lovely for teaching and learning.

This item is just the mainboard! You'll almost certainly want two Silicone Elastomer 4x4 Pads and an enclosure to go along.

Circuit PythonAs with a lot of these small boards, when you plug a NeoTrellis into a your machine via USB you'll get new disk drive that pops up. All you have to do to "deploy" your code is copy it to your drive. Even better, why not just edit the code place?

There's a great Python editor called Mu that works well with Circuit Python. However, my son and I are more familiar with Visual Studio Code so we wanted to see how it worked with Circuit Python.

We installed the Python extension for VS Code as well as the Arduino extension for VS Code and the Arduino IDE directly from the Windows Store.

Fire up VS Code and File | Open Folder and open the Disk Drive of the NeoTrellis and open (or create) a code.py file. Then from the Command Palette (Ctrl-Shift-P) in VS Code select Arduino > Initialize. If you get an error you may need to set up the path to your Arduino IDE. If you installed it from the Windows Store like we did you may find it in a weird path. We set the arduino.path like this:

"arduino.path": "C:\\Program Files\\WindowsApps\\ArduinoLLC.ArduinoIDE_1.8.19.0_x86__mdqgnx93n4wtt"

The NeoTrellis M4 also shows up as a COM port so you can look at its Serial Output for debugging purposes as if it were an Arduino (because it is underneath). You then Arduino > Select a COM Port from the Command Palette and it will create a file called .vscode/arduino.json in your folder that will look like this:

{
"port": "COM3"
}

Trellis M4 is awesomeNow, within Visual Studio Code select Arduino > Open Serial Monitor and all of your print("") methods will output to that bottom pane.

Of course, we could putty into the COM Port but since I'm using this as a learning tool with my 11 year old, I find that a single window that shows both the console and the code help them focus, rather than managing multiple windows.

At this point we have a nice Developer Inner Loop going. That inner loop for us (the developers) is that we can write some code, hit save (Ctrl-S) and get immediate feedback. The application restarts when it detects the code.py file has changed and any debug (print) statements appear in the console immediately.

Visual Studio Code doing some Circuit Python

We are really enjoying this Adafruit NeoTrellis M4 Express kit. Next we're going to make a beat sequencer since the Christmas Soundboard was such a hit with mom!


Sponsor: Me! Hey friends, I've got a podcast I'm very proud of where I interview amazing people every week. Check it out at https://www.hanselminutes.com and please not only subscribe in your favorite podcasting app, but also tell your friends! Tweet about it and review it on iTunes/Google Play. 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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

The Fun of Finishing - Exploring old games with Xbox Backwards Compatibility

December 21, '18 Comments [13] Posted in Gaming
Sponsored By

Star Wars: KOTORI'm on vacation for the holidays and I'm finally getting some time to play video games. I've got an Xbox One X that is my primary machine, and I also have a Nintendo Switch that is a constant source of joy. I recently also picked up a very used original PS4 just to play Spider-man but expanded to a few other games as well.

One of the reasons I end up using my Xbox more than any of my other consoles is its support for Backwards Compatibility. Backwards Compat is so extraordinary that I did an entire episode of my podcast on the topic with one of the creators.

The general idea is that an Xbox should be able to play Xbox games. Let's take that even further - Today's Xbox should be able to play today's Xbox games AND yesterday's...all the way back to the beginning. One more step further, shall well? Today's Xbox should be able to play all Xbox games from every console generation and they'll look better than you imagined them!

The Xbox One X can take 720p games and upscale them to 4k, use higher quality textures, and some games like Final Fantasy XIII have even been fully remastered but you still use the original disc! I would challenge you to play the original Red Dead Redemption on an Xbox One X and not think it was a current generation game. I recently popped in a copy of Splinter Cell: Conviction and it automatically loaded a 5-year-old save game from the cloud and I was on my way. I played Star Wars: KOTOR - an original Xbox game - and it looks amazing.

Red Dead Redemption

A little vacation combined with a lot of backwards compatibility has me actually FINISHING games again. I've picked up a ton of games this week and finally had that joy of finishing them. Each game I started up that had a save game found me picking up 60% to 80% into the game. Maybe I got stuck, perhaps I didn't have enough time. Who knows? But I finished. Most of these finishings were just 3 to 5 hours of pushing from my current (old, original) save games.

  • Crysis 2 - An Xbox 360 game that now works on an Xbox One X. I was halfway through and finished it up in a few days.
  • Crysis 3 - Of course I had to go to the local retro game trader and pick up a copy for $5 and bang through it. Crysis is a great trilogy.
  • Dishonored - I found a copy in my garage while cleaning. Turns out I had a save game in the Xbox cloud since 2013. I started right from where I left off. It's so funny to see a December 2018 save game next to a 2013 save game.
  • Alan Wake - Kind of a Twin Peaks type story, or a Stephen King with a flashlight and a gun. Gorgeous game, and very innovative for the time.
  • Mirror's Edge - Deceptively simple graphics that look perfect on 4k. This isn't just upsampling, to be clear. It's magic.
  • Metro 2033 - Deep story and a lot of world building. Oddly I finished Metro: Last Light a few months back but never did the original.
  • Sunset Overdrive - It's so much better than Jet Set Radio Future. This game has a ton of personality and they recorded ALL the lines twice with a male and female voice. I spoke to the voiceover artist for the female character on Twitter and I really think her performance is extraordinary. I had so much fun with this game that now the 11 year old is starting it up. An under-respected classic.
  • Gears of War Ultimate - This is actually the complete Gears series. I was over halfway through all of these but never finished. Gears are those games where you play for a while and end up pausing and googling "how many chapters in gears of war." They are long games. I ended up finishing on the easiest difficulty. I want a story and I want some fun but I'm not interested in punishment.
  • Shadow Complex - Also surprisingly long, I apparently (per my save game) gave up with just an hour to go. I guess I didn't realize how close I was to the end?

I'm having a blast (while the spouse and kids sleep, in some cases) finishing up these games. I realize I'm not actually accomplishing anything but the psychic weight of the unfinished is being lifted in some cases. I don't play a lot of multiplayer games as I enjoy a story. I read a ton of books and watch a lot of movies, so I look for a tale when I'm playing video games. They are interactive books and movies for me with a complete story arc. I love it when the credits role. A great single player game with a built-up universe is as satisfying (or more so) as finishing a good book.

What are you playing this holiday season? What have you rediscovered due to Backwards Compatibility?


Sponsor: Preview the latest JetBrains Rider with its Assembly Explorer, Git Submodules, SQL language injections, integrated performance profiler and more advanced Unity support.

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Enjoy some DOS Games this Christmas with DOSBox

December 19, '18 Comments [4] Posted in Gaming
Sponsored By

I blogged about DOSBox five years ago! Apparently I get nostalgic around this time of year when I've got some downtime. Here's what I had to say:

I was over at my parents' house for the Christmas Holiday and my mom pulled out a bunch of old discs and software from 20+ years ago. One gaame was "Star Trek: Judgment Rites" from 1995. I had the CD-ROM Collector's edition with all the audio from the original actors, not just the floppy version with subtitles. It's a MASSIVE 23 megabytes of content!

DOSBox has ben providing joy in its reliable service for over 16 years and you should go check it out RIGHT NOW, if only to remind yourself of how good we have it now. DOSBox is an x86 and DOS Emulator - not a virtual machine. It emulates classic hardware like Sound Blaster cards and older graphics standards like VGA/VESA.

If a game runs too fast, you can slow it down by pressing Ctrl-F11. You can speed up games by pressing Ctrl-F12. DOSBox’s CPU speed is displayed in its title bar. Type "intro special" for a full hotkey list.

Note that DOSBox will start up TINY if you have a 4k monitor. There's a few things to you can do about it. First, ALT-ENTER will toggle DOSBox into full screen mode, although when you return to Windows your windows may find themselves resized.

For Windowed mode, I used these settings. You can't scale the window when output=surface, so experiment with settings like these:

windowresolution=1280 x 1024
output=ddraw

These are only the most basic initial changes you'll want to make. There's an enthusiastic community of DOSBox users that are dedicated to making it as perfect as possible. I enjoy this reddit thread debating "pixel perfect" settings. There's also a number of forks and custom builds of DOSBox out there that impose specific settings so be sure to explore and pick the one that makes you happy. It's also important to understand that aspect ratios and the size and squareness of a pixel will all change how your game looks.

I tend to agree with them that I don't want a blurry scaler. I want the dots/pixels as they are, simply made larger (2x, 3x, 4x, etc) with crisp edges at a reasonable aspect ratio. An interesting change you can make to your .conf file is the "forced" keyword after your scaler choice.

Here is scaler=normal3x (no forced)

Blurry DOSBox

and there's scaler-normal3x forced

The instructions say that forced means "the scaler will be used even if the result might not be desired." In this case, it forces the use of the scaler in text mode. Your mileage may vary, but the point is there's options and it's great fun. You may want scanlines or you may want crisp pixels.

I've found it all depends on what your memory of DOS is and what you're trying to do is to change the settings to best visualize that memory. My (broken) memory is of CRISP pixels.

Crisp DOSBox

Amazing difference!
The first thing you should do is add lines like these to the bottom of your dosbox.conf. You'll want your virtual C: drive mounted every time DOSBox starts up!

[autoexec]
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
MOUNT C: C:\Users\scott\Dropbox\DosBox

If you want to play classic games but don't want the hassle (or questionable legality) of other ways, I'd encourage you to spend some serious time at https://www.gog.com. They've packaged up a ton of classic games so they "just work."

Bard's Tale 3
Space Quest 3

Enjoy! And THANK YOU to the folks that work on DOSBox for their hard work. It shows and we appreciate it.


Sponsor: Preview the latest JetBrains Rider with its Assembly Explorer, Git Submodules, SQL language injections, integrated performance profiler and more advanced Unity support.

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Useful ASP.NET Core 2.2 Features

December 14, '18 Comments [9] Posted in ASP.NET | DotNetCore
Sponsored By

Earlier this week I talked about how I upgraded my podcast site to ASP.NET Core 2.2 and added Health Check features fairly easily. There's a ton of new features and so far it's been great running on my site with no issues. Upgrading from 2.1 is straightforward.

I wanted to look at just a few of these that I found particularly interesting.

You can get a very significant performance boost by moving ASP.NET Core in process with IIS.

Using in-process hosting, an ASP.NET Core app runs in the same process as its IIS worker process. This removes the performance penalty of proxying requests over the loopback adapter when using the out-of-process hosting model.

After the IIS HTTP Server processes the request, the request is pushed into the ASP.NET Core middleware pipeline. The middleware pipeline handles the request and passes it on as an HttpContext instance to the app's logic. The app's response is passed back to IIS, which pushes it back out to the client that initiated the request.

HTTP Client performance improvements are quite significant as well.

Some significant performance improvements have been made to SocketsHttpHandler by improving the connection pool locking contention. For applications making many outgoing HTTP requests, such as some Microservices architectures, throughput should be significantly improved. Our internal benchmarks show that under load HttpClient throughput has improved by 60% on Linux and 20% on Windows. At the same time the 90th percentile latency was cut down by two on Linux. See Github #32568 for the actual code change that made this improvement.

HTTP/2 is enabled by default. HTTP/2 may be sneaking up on you as for the most part "it just works." In ASP.NET Core's Kestral web server HTTP/2 is enabled by default over HTTPS. You can see here at both the command line and in Chrome I'm using HTTP/2 locally.

HTTP/2 locally

Here's Chrome. Note the "h2."

HTTP/2 in Chrome

Note that you'll only be able to get HTTP/2 when ALPN (Application-Layer Protocol Negotiation) is available. That means ALPN is supported on:

All in all, it's a solid release. Go check out the announcement post on ASP.NET Core 2.2 for even more detail!


Sponsor: Preview the latest JetBrains Rider with its Assembly Explorer, Git Submodules, SQL language injections, integrated performance profiler and more advanced Unity support.

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

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