halloween, costumes comments edit

We had five more trick-or-treaters this year than we had last year and the most popular time to visit was between 7:30p and 8:00p, which is a half hour after last year. From the graph, it appears that kids are coming out later and later - back in 2006 and 2007, 6:30p to 7:00p was the most popular time to visit.

Here’s the graph:

2009: 243

And the cumulative data from this year and the other years we’ve tracked:

</tr> </thead> </table> Halloween was on a Saturday this year so we prepared for this number of kids by getting two giant bags of candy at Costco. We did think there'd be more, so we have about half a bag of candy left, but at least we didn't run out like we did last year. We put the Halloween projector out again this year and that was nice but I think I want to do more decorating for next year. I think Halloween's on Sunday next year, so I'm not sure if we'll have quite as big of a turnout, but it's fun to decorate and such. Around the 6:30p time we had a couple of larger trick-or-treaters show up in something similar to [Death Eater masks](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000UUMXD2?ie=UTF8&tag=mhsvortex&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000UUMXD2). They were also wearing some pretty heavy long black coats. They didn't say anything (which isn't out of the ordinary) and just held their bags out. Fine, some high school kids doing their last hurrah. When the next group of kids showed up, though, these larger ones were still there. OK, fine, we'll give you a second piece of candy and send you on your way. But they were there for a third time when kids showed up so I told them, no, they'd already been here twice and it was time for them to move on. As I shut the door, one of them stuck a foot in and got up in my face so I started getting ready to get nasty. "You'll be moving that foot now." Then the doorbell rang and they were there again. I'd had it... and then they said "Trick or Treat!" out loud. It was my ***freaking parents***. Man, they got us so good. We had no idea. It was my mom who'd got up in my face because she thought we could see her eyes through the mask. You couldn't - it was total blackout from outside the mask. Wow, did they get us. Not sure we'll be able to get 'em back for that, but we owe them a big one now.
2006 2007</th> 2008</th> 2009
Time Block 6:00p - 6:30p 52 5 14 17
6:30p - 7:00p 59 45 71 51
7:00p - 7:30p 35 39 82 72
7:30p - 8:00p 16 25 45 82
8:00p - 8:30p 0 21 25 21
  Total 162 139 237 243

media, windows comments edit

I just had a bit of a scare with a misbehaving Windows Home Server add-in where the upgrade process went frightfully wrong. As such, I ended up with:

  • The .msi for the add-in in the \\server\Software\Add-Ins folder.
  • The list of add-ins saying the add-in was installed.
  • No add-in actually installed.

Thank goodness there’s a great article over on HomeServerLand that tells you how to manually uninstall an add-in. I followed that process and the crisis was averted.

process comments edit

A few blogs I read have started experimenting with video blogging and it’s made me realize that I’m not a video blog… watcher(?).

If content is written, I can read it at my leisure. I can search through it, I can get it on my Blackberry during a boring meeting, I can do pretty much whatever. I can read a few paragraphs, switch to something else, and come back. Worst case scenario, I forget where I was and I can very quickly skim the article again to jog my memory.

Audio content is OK, but not great. It demands a bit more attention.

I’m not one of those folks who can write a term paper and watch a movie and talk to someone all at the same time. The result of me trying to multitask my I/O like that is nothing gets my full attention. I won’t know what’s going on in the movie, my paper will end up taking a long time to write and won’t make sense, and the conversation will dwindle.

I bring that up because with audio content, I can’t listen while I’m working. I’ll lose my train of thought. (I can listen to music, but generally stick to stuff that doesn’t have words or stuff I’ve heard so many times I don’t focus on it.) I can’t listen while I’m home, either, because generally the audio blogs/podcasts I’m into aren’t things my wife’s into.

That leaves my 15-minute-each-way daily commute. Given that, it takes me two or three days to get through an hour-long show like This American Life. Five days per week means I get about one-and-a-half podcasts in. I have to really pick and choose. In many cases, I end up doing a lot of deleting without listening because I can never catch up. (I’m looking at you, 30-minutes-three-times-a-week-Planet-Money. And has Hanselminutes been getting longer or is it just me?)

Which brings me to video blogs/podcasts/whatever. This is the worst of all worlds.

  • I can’t do anything with them while I’m working because it’s not even just audio content, it’s video, too.
  • I can’t do anything with them on my commute because it’s video. Plus, most times the video is on a site like YouTube where you can’t even download it and listen to the audio.
  • I can’t do anything with them at home because, frankly, if I’m going to sit down and watch something, there are plenty of more entertaining things I can watch to help me unwind than technical videos.

It’s the same problem I have with the phone. Instantly single-threaded. I might be able to do something that doesn’t require much brainpower at all, but basically, phone + me = useless.

GeekSpeak, net comments edit

Before I even get into this, let me preface it by saying Scott’s a friend of mine and he’s a great guy. I told him I was posting this before I did it. It’s just some interesting data that I got in an interesting way and thought folks would be interested. It’s also intended to totally crush Scott’s spirit. (I kid! I kid!)


I was just writing about how I was seeing more and more video blogs and was thinking about the earlier days of Hanselminutes when it seemed like the show was shorter. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just my mind playing tricks on me so I did some data gathering. This is actually about the process I went through.

The idea: create a graph of the Hanselminutes podcast duration over time so a trendline can be established.

At first I thought it would be pretty straightfoward - I could grab the RSS feed and just parse out the duration info. Turns out they don’t actually list how long each show runs, so I had to change my tack and analyze the MP3 durations directly.

Step 1: Getting the MP3s.

I’m not a Powershell guru but this sounded pretty Powershell-ish to me. The thing is, I already had some tools that would do some of the job for me, so I didn’t write the whole thing in Powershell. It went like this:

  • Grab the RSS feed for the show by just right-click and save-as from the site.
  • Get the URLs for the MP3s. I used a command-line XPath query tool for that, looking at /rss/channel/item/enclosure/@url. That gave me a nice list of the URLs to the show.
  • Get the MP3s. This is where I did a little brute force Powershell scripting. I suppose I could have saved the list of URLs to a text file and then wrote a script that read in the lines from the text file, but I didn’t. I did a regex search-and-replace to create a script that looks like this:
$client = new-object system.net.webclient;$client.DownloadFile("http://perseus.franklins.net/hanselminutes_0185.mp3", "hanselminutes_0185.mp3");$client.DownloadFile("http://perseus.franklins.net/hanselminutes_0184.mp3", "hanselminutes_0184.mp3");$client.DownloadFile("http://perseus.franklins.net/hanselminutes_0183.mp3", "hanselminutes_0183.mp3");$client.DownloadFile("http://perseus.franklins.net/hanselminutes_0182.mp3", "hanselminutes_0182.mp3");...

Like I said, pretty brute force… but I’m not running this a bunch of times, I’m just doing it once.

Step 2: Getting the Duration from the MP3s.

This was harder than I thought. What you actually have to do for this is get the MP3 tag info and get the duration from that.

I used the open source TagLib# and wrote a tiny console app using SnippetCompiler that looked like this:

DirectoryInfo dir = new DirectoryInfo(@"C:\Documents and Settings\tillig\Desktop\Hanselminutes");FileInfo[] files = dir.GetFiles("*.mp3");foreach(FileInfo file in files){  TagLib.File tag = TagLib.File.Create(file.FullName);  Console.WriteLine("{0}\t{1}", file.Name, tag.Properties.Duration);}

Again, could I have done that with Powershell? Sure, but I’m not too strong in Powershell and I haven’t had a chance to get too far beyond pretty basic stuff. And, again, I’m running it once.

So that gets me a tab-delimited text file with the name of the MP3 file and the duration.

Step 3: The Graph.

This was a simple import into Excel and add a graph. I won’t go through that.

The Result:

Hanselminutes Duration

I was right - there is an upward trend in the Hanselminutes duration.

So… interesting.

UPDATE: If you want the data for your own enjoyment, here you go.

net comments edit

I just spent a couple of days debugging a weird problem. We have a fairly large product that has several Visual Studio solutions in it, all of which target .NET 3.5. No, that’s not the problem. The problem was that we were able to build each solution separately in the correct dependency order just fine, but when the whole thing ran together in an automated fashion, the build would fail.

The failure message indicated that an extension method was not being recognized. Something like:

'Foo' does not contain a definition for 'Bar'

Again, it would build on its own, but not in the larger environment. What gives?

I figured the problem had to be the targeted .NET environment - that the project was targeting .NET 2.0 when run in the larger build but .NET 3.5 when run alone. And I was right, but not how I thought.

As it turns out, a custom build task run in an earlier build was setting an environment variable called COMPLUS_Version to v2.0.50727, which forced everything after that to run in .NET 2.0.

I had no idea such an environment variable existed. Doing a quick Google search on it, the only documentation on it has to do with build and test environments forcing things to run in different .NET versions, like if you’re building something for .NET 1.1 and want to see how it runs in .NET 2.0. I searched MSDN and other sites, but I can’t actually find any “official” documentation on this. It’s just one of those things you figure out.

Valid settings for COMPLUS_Version seem to be the same as the names of the folders you see when you go to the %WINDIR%\Microsoft.NET\Framework directory, like:

  • v1.1.4322
  • v2.0.50727
  • v3.5

…and so on.

Setting the value will force future processes in that space to use the specified .NET runtime, like:

set COMPLUS_Version = v3.5

That would force everything to run in .NET 3.5.

And we tried that - doing a set to .NET 3.5 to force everything to that runtime, but we then ran into another issue: We were using the vsdbcmd.exe program to do some database work during a build (that’s another story) and if you force it to run in .NET 3.5 you get the error:

To run this application, you must first install one of the following versions of the .NET Framework: v3.5 Contact your application publisher for instructions about obtaining the appropriate version of the .NET Framework

That made no sense to me since I obviously have .NET 3.5 installed.

The answer was to get rid of COMPLUS_Version entirely. After the custom build task ran, set the variable, and completed its work, we used the MSBuildCommunityTasks “script” task to unset the environment variable:

  public static void ScriptMain() {
    System.Environment.SetEnvironmentVariable("COMPLUS_Version", null);
<Script Language="C#" Code="$(SetCode)" Imports="System" />

Doing that removes the variable from the process space and later executables can allow the CLR to choose which environment to target automatically.