Scott Hanselman

Our little team is growing - Welcome to Jon Galloway and Pete Brown

November 12, '09 Comments [17] Posted in ASP.NET | ASP.NET MVC | Microsoft | Win7 | Windows Client
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Just about two years ago I joined Microsoft. I'm fortunate to work in a home office with a great team that I now lead. We work for the group at Microsoft that runs MSDN, TechNet, ASP.NET, Silverlight.NET, WindowsClient.NET, basically all the online education stuff. The giant group is called STO (Server & Tools Online) and our little group is "stoninja." That's our internal mailing alias.

We create content for all of the sites above but we're also active members of the community. We listen and drive feedback back into the product group. We're not part of the product evangelism group (DPE - Developer Platform Evangelism), but rather we focus primarily on online content creation. I like to think that we're the team that happens you after you go File|New Project, although we're constantly influencing what happens on both sides.

Fast forward to today and my little team is growing.

jon gallowayI'd like to announce that Jon Galloway is joining my team, he's coming to work for us via our good friends at Vertigo (who just announced a new Vertigo Software - Portland office which is cool). It's a bit of a change for Jon and it's something he's always wanted to do. Jon's official title will be Community Program Manager but I like to think of each member of the team as a Community Liaison. We're a small group, but we're sneaky (like ninjas, just fat, middle-aged somewhat pasty ninjas) and we are continually applying pressure to what we think are the right places within Microsoft.

You might know Jon from the Herding Code podcast he does with K. Scott Allen, Kevin Dente and Scott Koon. You might have read the ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology book that he worked on with Jeff, Phil, K. Scott and Wyatt. Jon's also done open source and works on SubText. Jon will be focusing on ASP.NET (all of it). He'll help get the http://asp.net site in shape and provide a much needed pragmatic view of all things web.

petebrown Also joined just a few weeks ago is Pete Brown. Pete comes to us after a long stint as .NET Architect, Project Manager, and Client Technologies Evangelist at Applied Information Sciences (AIS).

You may know Pete from his amazing C64 Emulator port to Silverlight. Pete has been working on the WindowsClient.NET site creating content and code samples that show some of the cool stuff you can do in Windows 7. He's started a multi-part video series just recently on the Windows 7 Sensor and Location APIs and will be filling the Learn section with even more great videos as well as working on http://msdn.com/windows.

When I came to work at Microsoft I posted a Venn diagram that looked like this:

I hope Jon and Pete's personal Venn diagram looks like mine, or since they are working from home (my whole team is remote) perhaps like this one ;)

Venn - Times when Happy vs. Times when wearing Pants

Please welcome both Jon and Pete to the team! The whole team - Me, Joe, Jesse, Tim, Pete and Jon - will be at PDC this year so do stop us and say Hello if you're there!

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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Herding Cats: Organize your Desktop Icons with Stardock Fences for Windows

November 8, '09 Comments [40] Posted in Reviews | Tools | Win7
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screenshot There are few issues that divide computer people like that thousand-year-old question: How many icons should you have on your desktop? Some folks say, "Load 'em up! Make those pixels work for you." Others say, "I like a fresh bowl desktop with no icons." Some folks find a spot in between with just My Computer and the Recycle Bin.

For me, the desktop is my work space. It's where I live and breathe and it's in front of my face all the time. I want as much information on there as possible. If I wanted a picture of the beach, I'd live at the beach and look up from my keyboard.

I'm thrilled with Windows 7. Frankly, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all the free time that I'm saving not dicking around with my computer trying to get it to work. Many of the tools I've espoused over the years simply aren't needed in Windows 7 as they were filling gaps that are no longer there.

That said, Fences from Stardock is one of those apps that extends Windows in such a comfortable and natural way, it should be built in. What's wonderful about Fences is that it is so subtle but so powerful that it truly becomes part of Explorer and feels like it's always there. It's not like to many loud or garish utilities that take over some aspect of Windows and feel the need to announce their presence with bright colors obnoxious splashscreens.

image Kudos, truly, to Stardock for showing not only a sense of restraint but also for embracing what I think of as the "new Windows aesthetic." Years of ridiculous toolbars, poor icon design, the Crayola-color themes of Windows XP and general gaudiness has watered down Windows and made it almost impossible to consider it an "visually attractive" OS. I think it's great that Windows 7 has a definable style that developers are embracing. I'm thrilled each time I download and play with some throwaway little utility but the developer has taken the time to integrate a Windows 7 feature like JumpLists, Taskbar Progress or even just taken the time to create a decent high-res icon. This is definitely a cue we can take from the Apple folks.

Fences Augments Windows Explorer

Back to Fences. It allows you to create just that - little "Fences" around icons on your desktop. The Fences can be any color and can have labels or not, or just show labels on mouseover.

To create a Fence you just right-drag a rectangle and click "create new fence here." Alternatively you can select from a series of presets to jump start your organization. You can also take snapshots when you get things just so. I do this for presentations because switching from 1920x1200 to 1024x768 tends to wreak havoc on icons and fences. Snapshots put things back they way they were.

Once you drag an icon into a fence, it auto-arranges with a satisfying animation as all the icons rearrange themselves to make room for the new addition.Another great subtle feature is if you double-click on the desktop it'll hide your icons. This is not only great for presentations where you might not want to let the eating public see the chaos in the kitchen, but it's also a nice compromise for those of you who want a clean desktop, but can also appreciate a a few icons here and there. You can even exclude specific icons (like perhaps My Computer) from quick-hide.

One obscure bug that I hope the Fences guys and gals fix is that there are some applications that take a regular folder, like Live Mesh for example, and "augment" it to make it more than a regular folder. They might change the icons or plug in a sidebar window. For whatever reason, Fences can't see those Folders while they are different. For now, the workaround is to exit Mesh, move the folder into the Fence, then turn Mesh on. Truly a minor irritant and best, but still it'd be nice to see it fixed.

Regardless, I whole-heartedly recommend Fences and encourage you to go download it NOW and try it out. Note that when you install it, you should pay attention to what it installs, as it also added an "auto-updater" for Stardock products that you may want to remove afterwards if those kinds of extra-applets bother you.

Enjoy!

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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Using a Bluetooth Jawbone Headset for BT-Audio (Microphone or Speakers) on Windows 7

October 31, '09 Comments [9] Posted in Reviews | Tools | Win7
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I installed a PILE of new drivers tonight from Lenovo using their most awesome System Update 4.0. Included was a Bluetooth Stack update.

On a whim, I tried to pair my Jawbone Bluetooth Headset, something that has never worked before, and it worked!

Devices and Printers in Windows 7 showing my Jawbone

More interestingly, when I right click on the Jawbone and click "Control" I get this dialog I've never seen before!

Jawbone Bluetooth Dialog

This actually looks and feels a tiny bit unpolished. Note the tight vertical whitespace at the VERY top and the strange blue gradient, as well as the Vista-esque color scheme on the far left. Not sure if this was in Vista and just not updated for Windows 7, but it looks weird.

UPDATE: Confirmed - This crazy wrong looking dialog is owned by Lenovo, not Windows.

Still, then Skype popped up suddenly and said there was new audio devices available!

Skype - Options Dialog

Sure enough, I've got a new Microphone and new "Speakers" in the form of my Jawbone headset. I can even use this headset for Voice Recognition, or even as my Default Communications device for Phone Calls with Office Communicator. Or, I can listen to music through my Jawbone. Deeply cool.

Sound Control Panel

I'm not sure who to thank, Windows 7 for better audio and Bluetooth support, or Lenovo for a Bluetooth 2.1 driver. Either way, I'm thrilled that my laptop can suddenly do something with Windows 7 that it couldn't do yesterday!

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 Weekly Source Code 46 - Jeff Key rocks Taskbar Meters that Monitor your Windows 7 CPU and Memory and Disk in the Taskbar

October 30, '09 Comments [8] Posted in Source Code | Tools | Win7 | Windows Client | WPF
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imageIt's funny to watch things go viral, even just a little viral on the Internet. Here's what happened, but more importantly, we'll talk about the code. Let's also make it complete clear that Jeff Key rocks. See picture at left, in between his two "lame" creations."

First, I did a post earlier this week called "Light it Up: List of Applications that use new Windows 7 Features." A day or two later I got an instant message from my former-roommate and part-time belay Jeff Key (@JeffreyKey on Twitter) (actually, that's all a complete lie, but, Jeff and I are friendly acquaintances for many years and have each other on IM) that said:

Saw your Win7 features post yesterday, so whipped this up last night and posted it on codeplex this morning:

http://taskbarmeters.codeplex.com/ kind of lame, but that's how i roll

Jeff Key jeff.key@sliver.com

For years Jeff has lived the mantra "Talk is Cheap, Show Me the Code." And he does, with some of the most inspired little .NET-based utilities out there asking for little else but our undying admiration and gratitude. That is how Jeff rolls. I visited his CodePlex site and saw it had 11 downloads.

image

I tweeted it and forgot about it. Then that tweet got picked up by Download.com (which I've heard of and whole gave credit to Jeff) Life Rocks 2.0 (which I've never heard of and who gave credit to no one) and then Lifehacker (which I have heard of and who "via'ed" Life Rocks). Next, I returned to CodePlex and saw that it had 4152 downloads! Congrats to Jeff for being so "lame!" ;)

image 

The Code

Why would Jeff be so down on himself and say the code is "lame" when clearly people were (are) going bananas and downloading these little utils? Well, because it's so darn easy to do, this was likely the source of Jeff's intense guilt. ;) The Windows API Code Pack makes it easy.

ASIDE: In fact, WPF on .NET 4 makes it even easier because it includes the new TaskbarItemInfo class that lets you do this from XAML. Pete Brown from my team has a great write-up on Showing Progress in the Windows 7 Taskbar with WPF 4 on his blog.

First, since his apps are specific to Windows 7, he checks first to make sure it's OK to continue. Note that it IS very possible to make apps that work great from XP to Windows 7, but these apps are little Windows 7 showcases, so you can see why he'd want to check for this:

if (!TaskbarManager.IsPlatformSupported)
{
MessageBox.Show("Sorry, but this app only works on Window 7.", "Aw snap!", MessageBoxButton.OK, MessageBoxImage.Error);
Application.Current.Shutdown();
}

To update the Taskbar (Superbar) Progress Bar he wrote a little helper because he wanted the colors to be green, yellow or red depending on the value of the CPU usage or Memory usage:

public void SetTaskBarStatus(int value)
{
if (value < 0)
{
value = 0;
}
else if (value > 100)
{
value = 100;
}

var state = TaskbarProgressBarState.Normal;

if (value > _settings.Yellow)
{
state = value < _settings.Red ? TaskbarProgressBarState.Paused : TaskbarProgressBarState.Error;
}

TaskbarManager.Instance.SetProgressState(state);
TaskbarManager.Instance.SetProgressValue(value, 100);
}

Then he just sets up a little System.Timer love and sets the Progress Bar values appropriately for Memory...

public partial class App : Application
{
private ComputerInfo _computerInfo;
private ulong _totalPhysicalMemory;

protected override void OnStartup(StartupEventArgs e)
{
base.OnStartup(e);

_computerInfo = new ComputerInfo();
_totalPhysicalMemory = _computerInfo.TotalPhysicalMemory;

var mainWindow = new MainWindow();
mainWindow.Tick += WhenTimerTick;
mainWindow.Show();
}

private void WhenTimerTick(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
var available = (double)(_totalPhysicalMemory-_computerInfo.AvailablePhysicalMemory) / _totalPhysicalMemory;
((MainWindow)sender).SetTaskBarStatus((int)(available * 100));
}
}

or CPU...

public partial class App : Application
{
private readonly PerformanceCounter _counter = new PerformanceCounter();

protected override void OnStartup(StartupEventArgs e)
{
base.OnStartup(e);

_counter.CategoryName = "Processor";
_counter.CounterName = "% Processor Time";
_counter.InstanceName = "_Total";

var mainWindow = new MainWindow();
mainWindow.Tick += WhenTimerTick;
mainWindow.Show();
}

private void WhenTimerTick(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
((MainWindow)sender).SetTaskBarStatus((int)_counter.NextValue());
}
}

Jeff also adds some JumpLists to launch Task Manager or Resource Monitor on right-click as well. Nice touch! A little polish there.

image

Also easy to do with the Windows 7 APIs in the Windows API Code Pack.

var jumpList = JumpList.CreateJumpList();
var systemFolder = Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.System);

jumpList.AddUserTasks(new JumpListLink(Path.Combine(systemFolder, "taskmgr.exe"), "Open Task Manager")
{
IconReference = new IconReference(Path.Combine(systemFolder, "taskmgr.exe"), 0)
});

jumpList.AddUserTasks(new JumpListLink(Path.Combine(systemFolder, "perfmon.exe"), "Open Resource Monitor")
{
IconReference = new IconReference(Path.Combine(systemFolder, "perfmon.exe"), 0),
Arguments = "/res"
});

jumpList.Refresh();

Nice job, Jeff Key. You rock. So, Dear Reader, go light up YOUR applications under Windows 7. Enjoy!

Patching this Open Source Project and adding a Disk IO Meter

A day later, @ScottMuc tweeted me about adding a Disk IO Meter and we went back and forth about it on Twitter. He eventually submitted a patch to CodePlex. While Jeff hasn't updated his code with that patch (maybe he'll make me an admin and I can do it), I'm able to patch my local copy, of course.

Useful Link: Example: How to contribute a patch to an Open Source Project

Downloading ScottMuc's patch and simply right clicking (using Tortoise SVN) and clicking Apply Patch gives me a new TaskbarDiskIOMeter project that I can then add to the larger solution. The only problem with the patch was that it refers to a binary file called Drive.ico that didn't get included in the .patch file. I found one and added it and now we've got a Disk IO monitor as well. :)

 image

Enjoy!


1. Get Windows 7 and the SDK

2. Develop and Test Your Application

3. Get the Windows 7 Logo

4. Light Up Your Application with Windows 7

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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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Light it Up: List of Applications that use new Windows 7 Features

October 26, '09 Comments [42] Posted in Win7 | Windows Client
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I'm digging Windows 7 more and more. So much so, that I'm watching out for apps that use new features like Jump Lists, Libraries, Power Management, Taskbar Progress Bars, Icon overlays, Multitouch, Ribbon, High DPI, Sensors, Locations, etc. I thought I'd start a post listing the applications that are using new features in Windows 7. Basically what apps "Light up" on Windows 7.

Yes, I realize that this list will soon (weeks? months?) include every Windows app, but it's nice to have it now while we're all playing with our shiny new toys.

Here's the ones that I've noticed. Add the ones you've found in the comments and I'll update the list!

 


 

Gmail Notifier Plus

This little app sits in your Windows 7 "Superbar" and checks your Gmail. You get tasks as well as a list of your unread email and a preview of each mail. There's even a nice little number overlay showing the number of unread mail.

 image

WinSnap

This is a screen capture utility and when it's pinned to the Taskbar it gives you a JumpList for taking screenshots.

win7_tasklist-3

Google Chrome 4 and Internet Explorer 8 and FireFox 3.6 (Daily Alpha Build)

As of this writing, both IE8 and Google Chrome have Windows 7 features. Chrome includes JumpLists and Tasks and IE8 supports not only those, but also Aero Previews of individual tabs (rather than just windows.) Firefox 3.6 Beta 1 also includes just the Tab Preview feature. Now that Windows 7 is out, I'd expect everyone to start ramping up the UX (User Experience) to get lit-up on 7.

The preview of individual tabs keeps me coming back to IE8. It's a REALLY nice feature and it's hard to get along without it.image

One subtle but irritating thing I did notice, was that the Aero Previews for Firefox 3.61a1 (build 2) are really unclear and poorly dithered. Here's an IE8 preview showing cnn.com next to FireFox showing the same page.

I'm sure they'll fix it, but it's irritating to my eye. I immediately noticed it. I'll add Chrome whenever they add this feature.

IE8

image

Firefox 3.6a1 build 2

image 

Zune 4 and (kinda) iTunes 9

Zune 4 includes Quickplay and Smart DJ tasks, and iTunes just includes two hard-coded tasks. Zune also ups the Win7 ante with its smaller and docked and minimized view, which is the hotness.

image image

iTunes also supports some Taskbar controls, but misses the point but not putting Album pictures in the Taskbar Preview.

image  image

Windows Live Messenger

I have a love-hate relationship with the current Windows Live Messenger. Initially I was really mad that (on 7) it wouldn't minimize to the tray (that thing next to the clock, not really called the tray, but I will call it that, so meh on you). Instead, it sticks around the Taskbar forever. While I understand that Windows 7 has a new UX aesthetic, I would appreciate an option. At this point, the option is to right-click on the icon, click Compatibility and basically lie to it, telling Messenger that it is running on Vista. Of course, then you lose the Windows 7 features, like the very full-featured Jump Lists:

image

Paint.NET 3.5 Alpha

"The latest alpha build of Paint.NET v3.5 will now use DirectWrite instead of GDI for the Text tool if you are running Windows 7. Get it while it’s hot."

This means that Paint.NET 3.5 not only looks better on Windows 7 (and certainly different than it used to look) but it's also crazy fast. Be sure to try the multi-threaded Font Dropdown as well.

image

Expression Encoder 3

I encode most of my videos using Expression Encoder and it lights up the Taskbar button with a progress bar letting me know how far along it is without me having to restore the main window.

image 

ImgBurn

Even though DVD/CD ISO Image Burning is built into Windows 7, I still like the UI and additional information that ImgBurn provides. It also uses the Taskbar button as a Progress Bar which is a subtle, but nice touch.

image 

WinZip 14

WinZip 14 ups the ante with not only support for JumpLists, but also Touch Screen support (!), Libraries and Explorer Preview. The Explorer Preview support may be enough for me to move away from 7-zip, although if you keep your zip files associated with Explorer they'll be openable as folders on the left pane, so it's a toss-up. It also includes interestingly, features to "Zip My Documents" as well as a half-dozen other one-click options to Zip up various "My" folders. A nice touch. Note, don't just click through their installer, as it installs Google Toolbar unless you say otherwise.

image 

AusLogics Disk Defrag

Disk Defrag 3 from Auslogics has a very clean interface...it looks like I wish Win7's defrag looks, although I understand that most people don't want all the details and pictures. It also includes Progress Bar integration and a little overlay to tell you it's running as Admin. It's FREE for Home Users.

image 

PowerArchiver

I tend to lean towards 7-zip for its minimalist UI, but PowerArchiver has JumpLists and Icon Overlays. Oddly, they call the Win7-looking interface the "Power Users Interface," presumably as to avoid freaking out your grandpa who's zipping stuff up with the Classic Interface. The whole package is close but not 100%. For example, they use an icon overlay during an extract rather than a progress bar. That's just wrong, and it should be fixed ASAP.

image 

Trillian Astra 4.1

Trillian is an IM and Chat client that integrates with Google, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook and more. I find it a little TOO out there from an interface perspective for my tastes, but many people swear by it. I like my apps to be a little Vanilla, or French Vanilla. Trillian is Rocky Road Chocolate and flaunts it. The new 4.1 version has Jump Lists, File Transfer Progress Bars, and even a Taskbar Preview of Video Calls in progress, which is a nice touch (I'm talking to you, Skype).

image 

Basically anything with a Recent Items List

Make sure to right click on most of your apps in the Taskbar. The ones that include a "Recent Items List" will usually get a free JumpList not only in the Taskbar, but also the Start Menu.

image image

Ok, what apps did I miss?

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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.