Scott Hanselman

Enjoy some DOS Games this Christmas with DOSBox

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


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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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Useful ASP.NET Core 2.2 Features

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


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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 set up ASP.NET Core 2.2 Health Checks with BeatPulse's AspNetCore.Diagnostics.HealthChecks

December 12, '18 Comments [5] Posted in ASP.NET | DotNetCore | Open Source
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Availability TestsASP.NET Core 2.2 is out and released and upgrading my podcast site was very easy. Once I had it updated I wanted to take advantage of some of the new features.

For example, I have used a number of "health check" services like elmah.io, pingdom.com, or Azure's Availability Tests. I have tests that ping my website from all over the world and alert me if the site is down or unavailable.

I've wanted to make my Health Endpoint Monitoring more formal. You likely have a service that does an occasional GET request to a page and looks at the HTML, or maybe just looks for an HTTP 200 Response. For the longest time most site availability tests are just basic pings. Recently folks have been formalizing their health checks.

You can make these tests more robust by actually having the health check endpoint check deeper and then return something meaningful. That could be as simple as "Healthy" or "Unhealthy" or it could be a whole JSON payload that tells you what's working and what's not. It's up to you!

image

Is your database up? Maybe it's up but in read-only mode? Are your dependent services up? If one is down, can you recover? For example, I use some 3rd party back-end services that might be down. If one is down I could used cached data but my site is less than "Healthy," and I'd like to know. Is my disk full? Is my CPU hot? You get the idea.

You also need to distinguish between a "liveness" test and a "readiness" test. Liveness failures mean the site is down, dead, and needs fixing. Readiness tests mean it's there but perhaps isn't ready to serve traffic. Waking up, or busy, for example.

If you just want your app to report it's liveness, just use the most basic ASP.NET Core 2.2 health check in your Startup.cs. It'll take you minutes to setup.

// Startup.cs
public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
services.AddHealthChecks(); // Registers health check services
}

public void Configure(IApplicationBuilder app)
{
app.UseHealthChecks("/healthcheck");
}

Now you can add a content check in your Azure or Pingdom, or tell Docker or Kubenetes if you're alive or not. Docker has a HEALTHCHECK directive for example:

# Dockerfile
...
HEALTHCHECK CMD curl --fail http://localhost:5000/healthcheck || exit

If you're using Kubernetes you could hook up the Healthcheck to a K8s "readinessProbe" to help it make decisions about your app at scale.

Now, since determining "health" is up to you, you can go as deep as you'd like! The BeatPulse open source project has integrated with the ASP.NET Core Health Check API and set up a repository at https://github.com/Xabaril/AspNetCore.Diagnostics.HealthChecks that you should absolutely check out!

Using these add on methods you can check the health of everything - SQL Server, PostgreSQL, Redis, ElasticSearch, any URI, and on and on. Just add the package you need and then add the extension you want.

You don't usually want your health checks to be heavy but as I said, you could take the results of the "HealthReport" list and dump it out as JSON. If this is too much code going on (anonymous types, all on one line, etc) then just break it up. Hat tip to Dejan.

app.UseHealthChecks("/hc",
new HealthCheckOptions {
ResponseWriter = async (context, report) =>
{
var result = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(
new {
status = report.Status.ToString(),
errors = report.Entries.Select(e => new { key = e.Key, value = Enum.GetName(typeof(HealthStatus), e.Value.Status) })
});
context.Response.ContentType = MediaTypeNames.Application.Json;
await context.Response.WriteAsync(result);
}
});

At this point my endpoint doesn't just say "Healthy," it looks like this nice JSON response.

{
status: "Healthy",
errors: [ ]
}

I could add a Url check for my back end API. If it's down (or in this case, unauthorized) I'll get this a nice explanation. I can decide if this means my site is unhealthy or degraded.  I'm also pushing the results into Application Insights which I can then query on and make charts against.

services.AddHealthChecks()
.AddApplicationInsightsPublisher()
.AddUrlGroup(new Uri("https://api.simplecast.com/v1/podcasts.json"),"Simplecast API",HealthStatus.Degraded)
.AddUrlGroup(new Uri("https://rss.simplecast.com/podcasts/4669/rss"), "Simplecast RSS", HealthStatus.Degraded);

Here is the response, cool, eh?

{
status: "Degraded",
errors: [
{
key: "Simplecast API",
value: "Degraded"
},
{
key: "Simplecast RSS",
value: "Healthy"
}
]
}

This JSON is custom, but perhaps I could use the a built in writer for a free reasonable default and then hook up a free default UI?

app.UseHealthChecks("/hc", new HealthCheckOptions()
{
Predicate = _ => true,
ResponseWriter = UIResponseWriter.WriteHealthCheckUIResponse
});

app.UseHealthChecksUI(setup => { setup.ApiPath = "/hc"; setup.UiPath = "/healthcheckui";);

Then I can hit /healthcheckui and it'll call the API endpoint and I get a nice little bootstrappy client-side front end for my health check. A mini dashboard if you will. I'll be using Application Insights and the API endpoint but it's nice to know this is also an option!

If I had a database I could check one or more of those for health well. The possibilities are endless and up to you.

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
services.AddHealthChecks()
.AddSqlServer(
connectionString: Configuration["Data:ConnectionStrings:Sql"],
healthQuery: "SELECT 1;",
name: "sql",
failureStatus: HealthStatus.Degraded,
tags: new string[] { "db", "sql", "sqlserver" });
}

It's super flexible. You can even set up ASP.NET Core Health Checks to have a webhook that sends a Slack or Teams message that lets the team know the health of the site.

Check it out. It'll take less than an hour or so to set up the basics of ASP.NET Core 2.2 Health Checks.


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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 remove words from the Windows Autocorrect Spell Check Dictionary

December 7, '18 Comments [6] Posted in Win10
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Well crap. I was typing really fast and got a squiggly, so I right-clicked on it and rather than selecting the correct word from the autocorrect dictionary, I clicked Add To Dictionary.

I added the MISSPELLED WORD to the Dictionary! Now Windows is suggesting that I spell this word (and others) wrong in all apps.

At this point I also realized that I had no idea how to REMOVE a word from the Windows Spell Check Dictionary. However, I do know that Windows isn't a black box so there must be a dictionary somewhere. It's gotta be a file or a registry key or something, right?

It's even easier than I thought it would be. The Windows 10 custom dictionaries are at %AppData%\Microsoft\Spelling\

The Windows 10 custom dictionaries are at %AppData%\Microsoft\Spelling\

I just opened the default.dic file in Notepad and removed the misspelled word.

Opening default.dic in Notepad

Whew. I can't tell you how many wrong words have found there way in there over the years. Hope this helps you in some small way.


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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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Announcing WPF, WinForms, and WinUI are going Open Source

December 4, '18 Comments [34] 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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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.