Scott Hanselman

Lonely Coding

September 30, '16 Comments [7] Posted in Musings
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It's official. I'm a better programmer when I'm pairing with someone. Pair Programming (two people, one keyboard) has been around for at least 20+ years, if not much longer. Usually one person types while another person (paces around and) thinks. It is kind of a "driver and navigator" model.

Everyone is different, to be clear, so it's very possible that you are the kind of person who can disappear into a closet for 8 hours and emerge with code, triumphant. I've done this before. Some of my best projects have involved me coding alone and that's fine.

However, just has we know that "diverse teams make for better projects," the same is true in my experience when coding on specific problems. Diversity isn't just color and gender, etc, it's as much background, age, personal history, work experience, expertise, programming language of choice, heck, it's even google-ability, and more!

How many times have you banged your head against a wall while coding only to have a friend or co-worker find the answer on their first web search?

Good pair programming is like that. Those ah-ha moments happen more often and you'll feel more than twice as productive in a pair.

In fact, I'm trying to pair for an hour every week remotely. Mark Downie and I have been pairing on DasBlog on and off for a year or so now in fits and starts. It's great. Just last week he and I were trying to crack one problem using regular expressions (yes, then we had two problems) and because there were two of us looking at the code it was solved!

Why is pair programming better?

Here's a few reasons why I think Pair Programming is very often better.

  • Focus and Discipline - We set aside specific times and we sprint. We don't chat, we don't delete email, we code. And we also code with a specific goal or endpoint in mind.
  • Collective ownership - I feel like we own the code together. I feel less ego about the code. Our hacks are our hacks, and our successes are shared.
  • Personal growth - We mentor each other. We learn and we watch how the other moves around the code. I've learned new techniques, new hotkeys, and new algorithms.

Let's talk about the remote aspect of things. I'm remote. I also like to poke around on non-work-related tech on the side, as do many of us. Can I pair program remotely as well? Absolutely. I start with Skype, but I also use Google Hangouts, Join.me, TeamViewer, whatever works that day.

If you're a remote person on a larger team, consider remote pair programming. If you're an consultant  or perhaps you've left a big corporate job to strike off on your own, you might be lonely. Seriously, ask yourself that hard question. It's no fun to realize or have to declare you're a lonely coder, but I am and I will. I love my job and I love my team but if I go a day or two without seeing another human or spending some serious time on Skype I get really tense. Remote pair programming can really reduce that feeling of lonely coding.

I was at a small tech get together in Atlanta a few days ago and I knew that one person there was a singular coder at their small business while another at the table was an emerging college student with an emerging talent. I made a gentle suggestion that maybe they consider pairing up on some side projects and they both lit up.

Consider your networks. Are there people you've met at conferences or at local user groups or meetups that might be good remote pairing partners? This might be the missing link for you. It was for me!

Do you pair? Do you pair remotely? Let us all know in the comments.

* Stock photo purchased from ColorStock - Your customers are diverse, why aren't your stock photos?


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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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FIXED: Xbox One losing TV signal error message with DirectTV

September 28, '16 Comments [14] Posted in Gaming
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Your TV signal was lostI've got an Xbox One that I love that is connected to a DirectTV HDTV Receiver that I love somewhat less. The setup is quite simple. Since I can control the DirectTV with the Xbox One and we like to switch between Netflix and Hulu and DirectTV we use the Xbox One to control everything.

The basic idea is this, which is quite typical with an Xbox One. In theory, it's amazing.

I fixed my Xbox One losing Signal with an HDMI powered splitter

However, this doesn't always work. Often you'll turn on the whole system and the Xbox will say "Your TV Signal was lost. Make sure your cable or satellite box is on and plugged into the Xbox." This got so bad in our house that my non-technical spouse was ready to "buy a whole new TV." I was personally blaming the Xbox.

It turns out that's an issue of HDMI compliance. The DirectTV and other older cable boxes aren't super awesome about doing things the exact way HDMI like it, and the Xbox is rather picky about HDMI being totally legit. So how do I "clean" or "fix" my HDMI signal from my Cable/Satellite receiver?

I took at chance and asked on Reddit and this very helpful user (thanks!) suggested an HDMI splitter. I was surprised but I was ready to try anything so I ordered this 2 port HDMI powered splitter from Amazon for just US$20.

ADDING AN HDMI SPLITTED WORKS - TOTALLY SOLVED THE PROBLEM

It totally works. The Xbox One now does its "negotiations" with the compliant splitter, not with the Receiver directly and we haven't seen a single problem since.

I fixed my Xbox One losing Signal with an HDMI powered splitter

If you have had this problem with your Xbox One then pick up a 2 port HDMI powered splitter and rejoice. This is a high quality splitter than doesn't change the audio signal and still works with HDCP if needed. Thanks internets!


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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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Self-contained .NET Core Applications

September 18, '16 Comments [40] Posted in DotNetCore | Open Source
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Just in case you missed it, .NET is all open source now and .NET Core is a free, open source, cross-platform framework that you can download and start with in <10 minutes. You can get it on Mac, Windows, and a half-dozen Unixes at http://dot.net. Take that along with the free, cross-platform Visual Studio Code and you'll be writing C# and F# all over the place.

Ok, that said, there's two ways to deploy a .NET Core application. There's FDD and SCD. Since TLAs (three letter acronyms) are stupid, that's Framework-dependent and Self-contained. When .NET Core is installed it ends up in C:\program files\dotnet on Windows, for example. In the "Shared" folder there's a bunch of .NET stuff that is, well, shared. There may be multiple folders, as you can see in my folder below. You can have many and multiple installs of .NET Core.

When you're installing your app and its dependencies BUT NOT .NET Core itself, you're dependent on .NET Core already being on the target machine. That's fine for Web Apps or systems with lots of apps, but what if I want to write an app and give it to you as zip or on a USB key and and I just want it to work. I'll include .NET Core as well so the whole thing is a Self Contained Deployment.

It will make my "Hello World" application larger than if I was using an existing system-wide install, but I know it'll Just Work because it'll be totally self-contained.

Where is .NET Core installed to?

If I deploy my app along with .NET Core it's important to remember that I'll be responsible for servicing .NET Core and keeping it up to date. I also need to decide on my target platforms ahead of time. If I want it to run on Windows, Mac, and Linux AND just work, I'll need to include those target platforms and build deployment packages for them. This all makes mostly intuitive sense but it's good to know.

I'll take my little app (I'm just using a "dotnet new" app) and I'll modify project.json in a text editor.

My app is a .NETCore.App, but it's not going to use the .NET Core platform that's installed. It'll use a local version so I'll remove "type="platform"" from this dependency.

"frameworks": {
"netcoreapp1.0": {
"dependencies": {
"Microsoft.NETCore.App": {
"version": "1.0.1"
}
}
}
}

Next I'll make a runtimes section to specify which ones I want to target. There's a list of ALL the Runtime IDs here.

"runtimes": {
"win10-x64": {},
"osx.10.10-x64": {},
"ubuntu.14.04-x64": {}
}

After running "dotnet restore" you'll want to build for each of these like this:

dotnet build -r win10-x64
dotnet build -r osx.10.10-x64
dotnet build -r ubuntu.14.04-x64

And then publish release versions after you've tested, etc.

dotnet publish -c release -r win10-x64
dotnet publish -c release -r osx.10.10-x64
dotnet publish -c release -r ubuntu.14.04-x64

Once this is done, I've got my app self-contained in n folders, ready to deploy to whatever systems I want.

Self-contained .NET app built for 3 OSs

You can see in the Win10 folder there's my "MYAPPLICATION.exe" (mine is called scd.exe) that can be run, rather than running things like developers do with "dotnet run."

I run foo.exe, not dotnet.exe now

There's lots of good documentation about how you can tune and define exactly what gets deployed with your self contained application over at the .NET Core Docs. You can do considerable trimming to .NET Core, and there's talk of that becoming more and more automated in the future, possibly down to the method level.


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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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Putting (my VB6) Windows Apps in the Windows 10 Store - Project Centennial

September 14, '16 Comments [35] Posted in VB | Win10
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Evernote in the Windows 10 Store with Project CentennialI noticed today that Evernote was in the Windows Store. I went to the store, installed Evernote, and it ran. No nextnextnextfinish-style install, it just worked and it worked nicely. It's a Win32 app and it appears to use NodeWebKit for part of it's UI. But it's a Windows app, just like VB6 apps and just like .NET apps and just like UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps, so I found this to be pretty cool. Now that the Evernote app is a store app it can use Windows 10 specific features like Live Tiles and Notifications and it'll be always up to date.

The Windows Store is starting (slowly) to roll out and include existing desktop apps and games by building and packaging those apps using the Universal Windows Platform. This was called "Project Centennial" when they announced it at the BUILD conference. It lets you basically put any Windows App in the Windows Store, which is cool. Apps that live there are safe, won't mess up your machine, and are quickly installed and uninstalled.

Here's some of the details about what's happening with your app behind the scenes, from this article. This is one of the main benefits of the Windows Store. Apps from the Store can't mess up your system on a global scale.

[The app] runs in a special environment where any accesses that the app makes to the file system and to the Registry are redirected. The file named Registry.dat is used for Registry redirection. It's actually a Registry hive, so you can view it in the Windows Registry Editor (Regedit). When it comes to the file system, the only thing redirected is the AppData folder, and it is redirected to the same location that app data is stored for all UWP apps. This location is known as the local app data store, and you access it by using the ApplicationData.LocalFolderproperty. This way, your code is already ported to read and write app data in the correct place without you doing anything. And you can also write there directly. One benefit of file system redirection is a cleaner uninstall experience.

The "DesktopAppConverter" is now packaged in the Windows Store as well, even though it runs at the command prompt! If your Windows Desktop app has a "silent installer" then you can run this DesktopAppConvertor on your installer to make an APPX package that you can then theoretically upload to the Store.

NOTE: This "Centennial" technology is in Windows 10 AU, so if you haven't auto-updated yet, you can get AU now.

They are also working with install vendors like InstallShield and WiX to so their installation creation apps will create Windows Store apps with the Desktop Bridge automatically. This way your existing MSIs and stuff can turn into UWP packages and live in the store.

DesktopAppConverter

It looks like there are a few ways to make your existing Windows apps into Windows 10 Store-ready apps. You can use this DesktopAppConverter and run it in your existing  silent installer. Once you've made your app a Store App, you can "light up" your app with Live Tiles and Notifications and  other features with code. Check out the https://github.com/Microsoft/DesktopBridgeToUWP-Samples GitHub Repro with samples that show you how to add Tiles or Background tasks. You can use [Conditional("DesktopUWP")] compilation if you have both a Windows Store and Windows desktop version of your app with a traditional installer.

If your app is a simple Xcopy-deploy app that has no installer, it's even easier. To prove this I installed Visual Basic 6 on my Windows 10 machine. OH YES I DID.

NOTE: I am using VB6 as a fun but also very cool example. VB6 is long out of support but apps created with it still run great on Windows because they are win32 apps. For me, this means that if I had a VB6 app that I wanted to move into the Store and widen my audience, I could.

I made a quick little Project1.exe in VB6 that runs on its own.

Visual Basic 6 on Windows 10

I made an AppxManifest.xml with these contents following this HelloWorld sample.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Package
xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/foundation/windows10"
xmlns:uap="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/uap/windows10"
xmlns:rescap="http://schemas.microsoft.com/appx/manifest/foundation/windows10/restrictedcapabilities">
<Identity Name="HanselmanVB6"
ProcessorArchitecture="x64"
Publisher="CN=HanselmanVB6"
Version="1.0.0.0" />
<Properties>
<DisplayName>Scott Hanselman uses VB6</DisplayName>
<PublisherDisplayName>Reserved</PublisherDisplayName>
<Description>I wish there was a description entered</Description>
<Logo>Assets\Logo.png</Logo>
</Properties>
<Resources>
<Resource Language="en-us" />
</Resources>
<Dependencies>
<TargetDeviceFamily Name="Windows.Desktop" MinVersion="10.0.14316.0" MaxVersionTested="10.0.14316.0" />
</Dependencies>
<Capabilities>
<rescap:Capability Name="runFullTrust"/>
</Capabilities>
<Applications>
<Application Id="HanselmanVB6" Executable="Project1.exe" EntryPoint="Windows.FullTrustApplication">
<uap:VisualElements
BackgroundColor="#464646"
DisplayName="Hey it's VB6"
Square150x150Logo="Assets\SampleAppx.150x150.png"
Square44x44Logo="Assets\SampleAppx.44x44.png"
Description="Hey it's VB6" />
</Application>
</Applications>
</Package>

In the folder is my Project1.exe long with an Assets folder with my logo and a few PNGs.

Now I can run the DesktopAppConverter if I have a quiet installer, but since I've just got a small xcopyable app, I'll run this to test on my local machine.

Add-AppxPackage -register .\AppxManifest.xml

And now my little VB6 app is installed locally and in my Start Menu.

VB6 as a Windows App

When I am ready to get my app ready for production and submission to the Store I'll follow the guidance and docs here and use Visual Studio, or just do the work manually at the command line with the MakeAppx and SignTool utilities.

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\bin\x86\makeappx" pack /d . /p Project1.appx

Later I'll buy a code signing cert, but for now I'll make a fake local one, trust it, and make a pfx cert.

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\bin\x86\makecert" /n "CN=HanselmanVB6" /r /pe /h /0 /eku "1.3.6.1.5.5.7.3.3,1.3.6.1.4.1.311.10.3.13" /e 12/31/2016 /sv MyLocalKey1.pvk MyLocalKey1.cer
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\bin\x86\pvk2pfx" -po -pvk MyLocalKey1.pvk -spc MyLocalKey1.cer -pfx MyLocalKey1.pfx
certutil -user -addstore Root MyLocalKey1.cer

Now I'll sign my Appx.

NOTE: Make sure the Identity in the AppxManifest matches the code signing cert's CN=Identity. That's the FULL string from the cert. Otherwise you'll see weird stuff in your Event Viewer in Microsoft|Windows\AppxPackagingOM|Microsoft-Windows-AppxPackaging/Operational like "error 0x8007000B: The app manifest publisher name (CN=HanselmanVB6, O=Hanselman, L=Portland, S=OR, C=USA) must match the subject name of the signing certificate exactly (CN=HanselmanVB6)."

I'll use a command line like this. Remember that Visual Studio can hide a lot of this, but since I'm doing it manually it's good to understand the details.

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\bin\x86\signtool.exe" sign /debug /fd SHA256 /a /f MyLocalKey1.pfx Project1.appx

The following certificates were considered:
Issued to: HanselmanVB6
Issued by: HanselmanVB6
Expires: Sat Dec 31 00:00:00 2016
SHA1 hash: 19F384D1D0BD33F107B2D7344C4CA40F2A557749

After EKU filter, 1 certs were left.
After expiry filter, 1 certs were left.
After Private Key filter, 1 certs were left.
The following certificate was selected:
Issued to: HanselmanVB6
Issued by: HanselmanVB6
Expires: Sat Dec 31 00:00:00 2016
SHA1 hash: 19F384D1D0BD33F107B2D7344C4CA40F2A557749


The following additional certificates will be attached:
Done Adding Additional Store
Successfully signed: Project1.appx

Number of files successfully Signed: 1
Number of warnings: 0
Number of errors: 0

Now I've got a (local developer) signed, packaged Appx that has a VB6 app inside it. If I double click I'll get the Appx installer, but what I really want to do is sign it with a real cert and put it in the Windows Store!

VB6 in the Windows Store

Here's the app running. Pretty amazing UX, I know.

VB6 app as a Windows Store App

It's early days, IMHO, but I'm looking forward to a time when I can go to the Windows Store and get my favorite apps like Windows Open Live Writer, Office, Slack, and more! Now's the time for you to start exploring these tools.

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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 deal with Technology Burnout - Maybe it's life's cycles

September 6, '16 Comments [37] Posted in Musings
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Burnout photo by Michael Himbeault used under cc

Sarah Mei had a great series of tweets last week. She's a Founder of RailsBridge, Director of Ruby Central, and the Chief Consultant of DevMynd so she's experienced with work both "on the job" and "on the side." Like me, she organizes OSS projects, conferences, but she also has a life, as do I.

If you're reading this blog, it's likely that you have gone to a User Group or Conference, or in some way did some "on the side" tech activity. It could be that you have a blog, or you tweet, or you do videos, or you volunteer at a school.

With Sarah's permission, I want to take a moment and call out some of these tweets and share my thoughts about them. I think this is an important conversation to have.

This is vital. Life is cyclical. You aren't required or expected to be ON 130 hours a week your entire working life. It's unreasonable to expect that of yourself. Many of you have emailed me about this in the past. "How do you do _____, Scott?" How do you deal with balance, hang with your kids, do your work, do videos, etc.

I don't.

Sometimes I just chill. Sometimes I play video games. Last week I was in bed before 10pm two nights. I totally didn't answer email that night either. Balls were dropped and the world kept spinning.

Sometimes you need to be told it's OK to stop, Dear Reader. Slow down, breathe. Take a knee. Hell, take a day.

Here's where it gets really real. We hear a lot about "burnout." Are you REALLY burnt? Maybe you just need to chill. Maybe going to three User Groups a month (or a week!) is too much? Maybe you're just not that into the tech today/this week/this month. Sometimes I'm so amped on 3D printing and sometimes I'm just...not.

Am I burned out? Nah. Just taking in a break.

Whatever you're working on, likely it will be there later. Will you?

Is your software saving babies? If so, kudos, and please, keep doing whatever you're doing! If not, remember that. Breathe and remember that while the tech is important, so are you and those around you. Take care of yourself and those around you. You all work hard, but are you paying yourself first?

You're no good to us dead.

I realize that not everyone with children in their lives can get/afford a sitter but I do also want to point out that if you can, REST. RESET. My wife and I have Date Night. Not once a month, not occasionally. Every week. As we tell our kids: We were here before you and we'll be here after you leave, so this is our time to talk to each other. See ya!

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this important reminder with us. Cycles happen.

Related Reading

* Burnout photo by Michael Himbeault used under CC

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.