Scott Hanselman

Coders: Context Switching is hard for both computers and relationships

April 4, '19 Comments [10] Posted in Musings
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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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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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How to convert an IMG file to an standard ISO easily with Linux on Windows 10

February 12, '19 Comments [13] Posted in Gaming | Musings
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Modded Goldstar 3DO for USBThe optical disc drive is giving out on my GoldStar 3DO machine. It's nearly 30 years old. I want to make sure that the kids and I can still play our 3DO discs. I ordered this fantastic USB mod for the 3DO from a fellow out of Belarus. It came and it's great. It includes a game/file selector app that you boot off of if you put it in the root of a FAT32 formatted USB drive.

However, when I cloned my collection of CD-ROMS I ended up with a bunch of IMG files, and this mod wants ISO files. I thought my cloner was going to give me ISOs. I did the obvious thing and googled for "how to convert an img file to an iso."

This plunged me into the hellscape that is CNET and Major Geeks download wrappers. Every useful application or utility out there is hidden on a page filled with Download Now buttons that aren't the button you want OR if you get the app you want, it's actually a Chrome Search hijacker. I just want to convert a damn IMG to an ISO. If you want to do this on Windows you're going to be installing a bunch of virus-laden trial ISO cracking crap.

Fortunately, Windows 10 can run Linux very nicely, thank you very much. Go install Ubuntu from the Windows Store and get set up ASAP.

I just installed ccd2iso inside Ubuntu on my Windows 10 machine.

scott@IRONHEART:~$ sudo apt install ccd2iso
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
ccd2iso
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 27 not upgraded.
Need to get 7406 B of archives.
After this operation, 26.6 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu bionic/universe amd64 ccd2iso amd64 0.3-7 [7406 B]
Fetched 7406 B in 0s (21.0 kB/s)
Selecting previously unselected package ccd2iso.
(Reading database ... 61432 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../ccd2iso_0.3-7_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking ccd2iso (0.3-7) ...
Processing triggers for man-db (2.8.3-2ubuntu0.1) ...
Setting up ccd2iso (0.3-7) ...
scott@IRONHEART:~$ cd /mnt/c/Users/scott/Desktop/3do/

Then I cd (change directory) into my file system where my IMG backups are. Note that my C:\ drive on Windows is at /mnt/c so you can see me in a folder on my Desktop here. Then just run ccd2iso.

scott@IRONHEART:/mnt/c/Users/scott/Desktop/3do$ ccd2iso AloneInTheDark.img AloneInTheDark.iso
179500 sector written
Done.

Boom. Super fast and does the job and now I'm up and running! Regardless of why you got to this blog post and needed to convert an IMG to an ISO, I hope this helps and saves you some time!


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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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Teaching Kids to Code with Minecraft Mods made easy using MakeCode and Code Connection

February 5, '19 Comments [7] Posted in Gaming | Musings
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Back in the day, making a Minecraft mod was...challenging. It was a series of JAR files and Java hacks and deep folder structures. It was possible, but it wasn't fun and it surely wasn't easy. I wanted to revisit things now that Minecraft is easily installed from the Windows Store.

Today, it couldn't be easier to make a Minecraft Mod, so I know what my kids and I are doing tonight!

I headed over to https://minecraft.makecode.com/setup/minecraft-windows10 and followed the instructions. I already have Minecraft installed, so I just had to install the Minecraft Code Connection app. The architecture here is very clean and clever. Basically you turn on cheats in Minecraft and use a local websockets connection between the Code Connection app and Minecraft - you're automating Minecraft from an external application!

Here I'm turning on cheats in a new Miencraft world:

Minecraft Allow Cheats

Then from the Code Connection app, I get a URL for the automation server, then go back to Minecraft, hit "t" and paste it in the URL. Now the two apps are talking to each other.

Connecting Minecraft to MakeCode

I can automate with MakeCode, Scratch, or other editors. I'll do MakeCode.

Make Code is amazing

Then an editor opens. This is the same base open source Make Code editor I used when I was coding for an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express earlier this year.

Now, I'll setup a chat command in Make Code that makes it rain chickens when I type the chat command "chicken." It runs a loop and spawns 100 chickens 10 blocks above my character's head.

Chicken rain

I was really surprised how easy this was. It was maybe 10 mins end to end, which is WAY easier than the Java add-ins I learned about just a few years ago.

Minecraft Chicken Rain

There are a ton of tutorials here, including Chicken Rain. https://minecraft.makecode.com/tutorials

The one I'm most excited to show my kids is the Agent. Your connection to the remote Code Connection app includes an avatar or "agent." Just like Logo (remember that, robot turtles?) you can control your agent and make him build stuff. No more tedious house building for us! Let's for-loop our way to glory and teach dude how to make us a castle!


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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.