Scott Hanselman

Accessibility Insights for the Web and Windows makes accessibility even easier

April 9, '19 Comments [2] Posted in Tools
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Accessibility InsightsI recently stumbled upon https://accessibilityinsights.io. There's both a Chrome/Edge extension and a Windows app, both designed to make it easier to find and fix accessibility issues in your websites and apps.

The GitHub for the Accessibility Insights extension for the web is at https://github.com/Microsoft/accessibility-insights-web and they have three trains you can get on:

It builds on top of the Deque Axe core engine with a really fresh UI. The "FastPass" found these issues with my podcast site in seconds - which kind of makes me feel bad, but at least I know what's wrong!

However, the most impressive visualization in my opinion was the Tab Stop test! See below how it draws clear numbered line segments as you Tab from element. This is a brilliant way to understand exactly how someone without a mouse would move through your site.

I can easily see what elements are interactive and what's totally inaccessible with a keynote! I can also see if the the tab order is inconsistent with the logical order that's communicated visually.

Visualized Tab Stops as numbered points on a line segment that moves through the DOM

After the FastPass and Tab Visualizations, there's an extensive guided assessment that walks you through 22 deeper accessibility areas, each with several sub issues you might run into. As you move through each area, most have Visual Helpers to help you find elements that may have issues.

Checking for accessible elements on a web site

After you're done you and export your results as a self-contained HTML file you can check in and then compare with future test results.

There is also an Accessibility Insights for Windows if I wanted to check, for example, the accessibility of the now open-source Windows Calculator https://github.com/Microsoft/calculator.

It also supports Tab Stop visualization and is a lot like Spy++ - if you remember that classic developer app. There were no Accessibility issues with Calculator - which makes sense since it ships with Windows and a lot of people worked to make it Accessible.

Instead I tried to test Notepad2. Here you can see it found two elements that can have keybook focus but have no names. Even cooler, you can click "New Bug" and it will create a new accessibility bug for you in Azure DevOps.

Test Results for Windows apps being checked for accessibility

The Windows app is also open source and up at https://github.com/Microsoft/accessibility-insights-windows for you to explore and file issues! There's also excellent developer docs to get you up to speed on the organization of the codebase and how each class and project works.

You can download both of these free open source Accessibility Tools at https://accessibilityinsights.io and start testing your websites and apps. I have some work to do!


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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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Coders: Context Switching is hard for both computers and relationships

April 4, '19 Comments [10] Posted in Musings
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Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Clive Thompson is a longtime contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired and now has a new book out called "Coders."

"Along the way, Coders thoughtfully ponders the morality and politics of code, including its implications for civic life and the economy. Programmers shape our everyday behavior: When they make something easy to do, we do more of it. When they make it hard or impossible, we do less of it."

I'm quoted in the book and I talk about how I've struggled with context-switching.

Here is TechTarget's decent definition of Context Switching:

A context switch is a procedure that a computer's CPU (central processing unit) follows to change from one task (or process) to another while ensuring that the tasks do not conflict. Effective context switching is critical if a computer is to provide user-friendly multitasking.

However, human context switching is the procedure we all have to go through to switch from "I am at work" mode to "I am at home" mode. This can be really challenging for everyone, no matter their job or background, but I propose for certain personalities and certain focused jobs like programming it can be even worse.

Quoting Clive from an ArsTechnica article where he mentions my troubles, emphasis mine:

One of the things that really leapt out is the almost aesthetic delight in efficiency and optimization that you find among software developers. They really like taking something that's being done ponderously, or that's repetitive, and optimizing it. Almost all engineering has focused on making things run more efficiently. Saving labor, consolidating steps, making something easier to do, amplifying human abilities. But it also can be almost impossible to turn off. Scott Hanselman talks about coding all day long and coming down to dinner. The rest of the family is cooking dinner and he immediately starts critiquing the inefficient ways they're doing it: "I've moved into code review of dinner."

Ordinarily a good rule of thumb on the internet is "don't read the comments." But we do. Here's a few from that ArsTechnica thread that are somewhat heartening. It sucks to "suffer" but there's a kind of camaraderie in shared suffering.

With reference to "Scott Hanselman talks about coding all day long and coming down to dinner. The rest of the family is cooking dinner and he immediately starts critiquing the inefficient ways they're doing it: "I've moved into code review of dinner.""

Wow, that rings incredibly true.

That's good to hear. I'm not alone!

I am not this person. I have never been this person.
Then again, I'm more of a hack than hacker, so maybe that's why. I'm one of those people who enjoys programming, but I've never been obsessed with elegance or efficiency. Does it work? Awesome, let's move on.

That's amazing that you have this ability. For some it's not just hard to turn off, it's impossible and it can ruin relationships.

When you find yourself making "TODO" and "FIXME" comments out loud, it's time to take a break. Don't ask me how I know this.

It me.

Yep, here too 2x--both my wife and I are always arguing over the most efficient way to drive somewhere. It's actually caused some serious arguments! And neither one of us are programmers or in that field. (Although I think each of us could have been.)
From the day I was conscious I've been into bin packing and shortest path algorithms--putting all the groceries up in the freezer even though we bought too much--bin packing. Going to that grocery store and back in peak traffic--shortest path. I use these so often and find such sheer joy in them that it's ridiculous, but hey, whatever keeps me happy.

This is definitely a thing that isn't programmer-specific. Learning to let go and to accept that your partner in life would be OK without you is an important stuff. My spouse is super competent and I'm sure could reboot the router without me and even drive from Point A to Point B without my nagging. ;)

However we forget these things and we tend to try and "be helpful" and hyper-optimize things that just don't need optimizing. Let it go. Let people just butter their damn bread the way they like. Let them drive a mile out of the way, you'll still get there. We tend to be ruder to our partners than we would be to a stranger.

That’s part of the reason why I’m now making all dinners for my family ;-)

LOL, this is also a common solution. Oh, you got opinions? Here's the spatula!

What do YOU think? How do you context switch and turn work off and try to be present for your family?


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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 Transitive Property of Friendship - and the importance of the Warm Intro

April 2, '19 Comments [5] Posted in Musings
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Too many LinkedIn invitationsPer Wikipedia, "In mathematics, a binary relation ... is transitive if ... element a is related to an element b and b is related to an element c then a is also related to c."

Per Me, if I am cool with you, and you are cool with your friend, then I'm cool with your friend. I've decided this is The Transitive Property of Friendship.

As I try to mentor more and more people and help folks Level Up in tech, I'm realizing how important it is to #BeTheLuck for someone else. This is something that YOU can do - volunteer at local schools, forward that resume for your neighbor, give a Warm Intro to a friend of a friend.

A lot of one's success can be traced back to hard work and being prepared for opportunities to present themselves, but also to Warm Intros. Often you'll hear about someone who worked hard in school, studied, did well, but then got a job because "their parent knew a person who worked at x." That's something that is hard to replicate. For under-represented folks trying to break into tech, for example, it's the difference between your resume sitting in a giant queue somewhere vs. sitting on the desk of the hiring manager. Some people inherit a personal network and a resume can jump to the top of a stack with a single phone call, while others send CV after CV with nary a callback.

This is why The Warm Intro is so important. LinkedIn has tried to replicate this by allowing you to "build your professional network" but honestly, you can't tell if I'm cool with someone on LinkedIn just because they're connected to me. Even Facebook "friends" have changed the definition of friend. It certainly has for me. Now I'm mentally creating friend categories like work colleague, lowercase f friend, Uppercase F Friend, etc.

Here's where it gets hard. You can't help everyone. You also have to protect yourself and your own emotional well-being. This is where cultivating a true network of genuine friends and work colleagues comes in. If your First Ring of Friends are reliable, kind, and professional, then it's safer to assume that anyone they bring into your world has a similar mindset. Thus, The Transitive Property of Friendship - also know as "Any friend of Scott's is a friend of mine." The real personal network isn't determined by Facebook or LinkedIn, it's determined by your gut, your experiences, and your good judgment. If you get burned, you'll be less likely to recommend someone in the future.

I've been using this general rule to determine where and when to spend my time while still trying to Lend my Privilege to as many people as possible. It's important also to not be a "transactional networker." Be thoughtful if you're emailing someone cold (me or otherwise). Don't act like an episode of Billions on Showtime. We aren't keeping score, tracking favors, or asking for kickbacks. This isn't about Amazon Referral Money or Finder's Fees. When a new friend comes into your life via another and you feel you can help, give of your network and time freely. Crack the door open for them, and then let them kick it open and hopefully be successful.

All of this starts by you - we - building up warm, genuine professional relationships with a broad group of people. Then using that network not just for yourself, but to lift the voices and careers of those that come after you.

What are YOUR tips and thoughts on building a warm and genuine personal and professional network of folks?


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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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Displaying your realtime Blood Glucose from NightScout on an AdaFruit PyPortal

March 29, '19 Comments [8] Posted in Hardware | Open Source
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file-2AdaFruit makes an adorable tiny little Circuit Python IoT device called the PyPortal that's just about perfect for the kids - and me. It a little dakBoard, if you will - a tiny totally programmable display with Wi-Fi and  lots of possibilities and sensors. Even better, you can just plug it in over USB and edit the code.py file directly on the drive that will appear. When you save code.py the device soft reboots and runs your code.

I've been using Visual Studio Code to program Circuit Python and it's become my most favorite IoT experience so far because it's just so easy. The "Developer's Inner Loop" of code, deploy, debug is so fast.

As you may know, I use a Dexcom CGM (Continuous Glucose Meter) to manage my Type 1 Diabetes. I feed the data every 5 minutes into an instance of the Nightscout Open Source software hosted in Azure. That gives me a REST API to my own body.

I use that REST API to make "glanceable displays" where I - or my family - can see my blood sugar quickly and easily.

I put my blood sugar in places like:

And today, on a tiny PyPortal device. The code is simple, noting that I don't speak Python, so Pull Requests are always appreciated.

import time
import board
from adafruit_pyportal import PyPortal

# Set up where we'll be fetching data from
DATA_SOURCE = "https://NIGHTSCOUTWEBSITE/api/v1/entries.json?count=1"
BG_VALUE = [0, 'sgv']
BG_DIRECTION = [0, 'direction']

RED = 0xFF0000;
ORANGE = 0xFFA500;
YELLOW = 0xFFFF00;
GREEN = 0x00FF00;

def get_bg_color(val):
if val > 200:
return RED
elif val > 150:
return YELLOW
elif val < 60:
return RED
elif val < 80:
return ORANGE
return GREEN

def text_transform_bg(val):
return str(val) + ' mg/dl'

def text_transform_direction(val):
if val == "Flat":
return "→"
if val == "SingleUp":
return "↑"
if val == "DoubleUp":
return "↑↑"
if val == "DoubleDown":
return "↓↓"
if val == "SingleDown":
return "↓"
if val == "FortyFiveDown":
return "→↓"
if val == "FortyFiveUp":
return "→↑"
return val

# the current working directory (where this file is)
cwd = ("/"+__file__).rsplit('/', 1)[0]
pyportal = PyPortal(url=DATA_SOURCE,
json_path=(BG_VALUE, BG_DIRECTION),
status_neopixel=board.NEOPIXEL,
default_bg=0xFFFFFF,
text_font=cwd+"/fonts/Arial-Bold-24-Complete.bdf",
text_position=((90, 120), # VALUE location
(140, 160)), # DIRECTION location
text_color=(0x000000, # sugar text color
0x000000), # direction text color
text_wrap=(35, # characters to wrap for sugar
0), # no wrap for direction
text_maxlen=(180, 30), # max text size for sugar & direction
text_transform=(text_transform_bg,text_transform_direction),
)

# speed up projects with lots of text by preloading the font!
pyportal.preload_font(b'mg/dl012345789');
pyportal.preload_font((0x2191, 0x2192, 0x2193))
#pyportal.preload_font()

while True:
try:
value = pyportal.fetch()
pyportal.set_background(get_bg_color(value[0]))
print("Response is", value)
except RuntimeError as e:
print("Some error occured, retrying! -", e)
time.sleep(180)

I've put the code up at https://github.com/shanselman/NightscoutPyPortal. I want to get (make a custom?) a larger BDF (Bitmap Font) that is about twice the size AND includes 45 degree arrows ↗ and ↘ as the font I have is just 24 point and only includes arrows at 90 degrees. Still, great fun and took just an hour!

NOTE: I used the Chortkeh BDF Font viewer to look at the Bitmap Fonts on Windows. I still need to find a larger 48+ PT Arial.

What information would YOU display on a PyPortal?


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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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F7 is the greatest PowerShell hotkey that no one uses any more. We must fix this.

March 26, '19 Comments [15] Posted in Musings | PowerShell
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Thousands of years ago your ancestors, and myself, were using DOS (or CMD) pressing F7 to get this amazing little ASCII box to pop up to pick commands they'd typed before.

Holy crap it's a little ASCII box

When I find myself in cmd.exe I use F7 a lot. Yes, I also speak *nix and Yes, Ctrl-R is amazing and lovely and you're awesome for knowing it and Yes, it works in PowerShell.

Ctrl-R for history works in PowerShell

Here's the tragedy. Ctrl-R for a reverse command search works in PowerShell because of a module called PSReadLine. PSReadLine is basically a part of PowerShell now and does dozens of countless little command line editing improvements. It also - not sure why and I'm still learning - unknowingly blocks the glorious F7 hotkey.

If you remove PSReadLine (you can do this safely, it'll just apply to the current session)

Remove-Module -Name PSReadLine

Why, then you get F7 history with a magical ASCII box back in PowerShell. And as we all know, 4k 3D VR be damned, impress me with ASCII if you want a developer's heart.

There is a StackOverflow Answer with a little PowerShell snippet that will popup - wait for it - a graphical list with your command history by calling

Set-PSReadlineKeyHandler -Key F7

And basically rebinding the PSReadlineKeyHandler for F7. PSReadline is brilliant, but I what I really want to do is to tell it to "chill" on F7. I don't want to bind or unbind F7 (it's not bound by default) I just want it passed through.

Until that day, I, and you, can just press Ctrl-R for our reverse history search, or get this sad shadow of an ASCII box by pressing "h." Yes, h is already aliased on your machine to Get-History.

PS C:\Users\scott> h

  Id CommandLine
   -- -----------
    1 dir
    2 Remove-Module -Name PSReadLine

Then you can even type "r 1" to "invoke-history" on item 1.

But I will still mourn my lovely ASCII (High ASCII? ANSI? VT100?) history box.


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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.