With the understanding that the overlap in a Venn diagram describing folks who use Windows Media Center, XBOX 360 as a Media Center Extender, and Visual Studio on their WMC machine is probably vanishingly small, I thought it might still be useful to post the problems I experienced with this combo, and the solution.
A quick note for folks who attended the Apex Systems Tech Talk I did this past Thursday. As promised, I’ve published my slides to OneDrive, and they can be found here:
Works on My Machine…or Does It?
It’s always frustrating when you’re working on a project, and everything looks good when you’re running it from Visual Studio, and then you deploy to your web server, and suddenly something’s not rendering correctly. In this post, I’ll give you some tips for troubleshooting these problems when the target browser is Internet Explorer.
Clients and VMs and VPNs, Oh My!
As regular readers of this blog may be aware, I recently hung up my technical evangelist hat, and made the jump back into full-time consulting.
Consistent with best practices, I decided that when working with a new client, the best course of action would be to set up a new virtual machine to keep all of the development environment, tools, and files isolated from anything on my host machine, which helps minimize the risk that installing the latest bleeding-edge tools (which are good to have to stay ahead of the learning curve) don’t endanger the work I’m doing for the client.
Last night I learned (or I should say re-learned) a hard lesson. Several lessons, actually. More on that in a moment.
What Not to Do
I built a VM using Hyper-V to have an isolated environment for client work. Stored the VM and its .vhdx file on an external drive. So far, so good.
But for performance, I figured it’d make sense to set the VM up for boot to VHD. Did I mention the VM was installed on an external disk?
This post is for anyone who podcasts, videocasts, or otherwise relies for their living (or hobby) on recording their voice on their computer. It’s particularly addressed to folks like myself who record screencasts, in which you’re teaching people to use software, oftentimes including demos in which you’re typing live while recording your screencast.
Get a Boom!
Last year, I wrote a primer on audio gear for podcasters, as well as a follow up with some additional recommendations. In the first of those posts, I mentioned that I use a RODE PSA1 boom arm for my microphone. This is possibly one of the most important pieces of audio gear I own, even though there isn’t a single bit of electronics in it.
Why? Two words.
A Boom Can Help Your Sound
The motivation for this post is the fact that I was listening to a video tutorial (I won’t share where, or who authored it, as that’s not really the point). From the sound quality of the video, it sounds as though the author is using either a built-in mic on their laptop, or perhaps an inexpensive USB mic on a desktop stand. There’s a fair amount of ambient echo, which is typical for rooms that haven’t been acoustically treated, and which is usually perfectly fine.
Noise, Noise, Noise
What’s not fine is hearing repeated thudding each time the author hits their desk. And the thud-thud-thud that comes with every keystroke during the demos. Understand, the point is not to knock the author of this course. It’s to point out that there’s a very easy way to avoid this…a boom.
OK, so this model probably isn’t sold anymore…
A microphone boom arm helps isolate your microphone from sources of noise, including inadvertent taps and bangs on your desk, as well as keyboard noise transmitted through the desk. You can get some of this benefit from a shock or spider mount, but a boom does the best job at isolating vibrations, which is why they’re used by radio professionals, who rely on good sound for their living.
Signal is King
The other big thing that a boom mic can do is improve the signal (i.e. your voice) by allowing you to place the mic closer to the source, namely you. With a boom mic, you can place the mic within a few inches of your face, which will ensure that what you record contains more of your voice, and less of whatever else is going on (echos, outside noises, etc.). If you don’t have a pop filter, just speak slightly off-axis to the mic (turn slightly to the left or right), and you should be able to get a great signal.
Is It Worth the Cost?
The boom I use costs right around $90. If you podcast/videocast as a hobby, that may be more than you’d like to spend. In that case, I’d recommend looking into cheaper solutions, like a spider mount (and to be clear, a spider mount is a must even if you do use a boom). But if you get paid for recording your voice, a boom is a seriously worthwhile expenditure. If your audio has problems, most people won’t tell you that directly. They may not even notice it consciously. But they’ll probably stop listening.
And in addition to the improvements in audio quality a boom can bring, it also adds convenience. Having my mic on a boom means that there’s one less thing cluttering my desk. When I’m done recording a given podcast or video, I just swivel it up out of the way.
I’d love to hear from other podcasters and videocasters about any tips you have for getting the most out of your gear. Drop a comment below, or feel free to use my contact form.
This is a tough post to write. After 9+ years, and some of the best times I’ve had in my career, I’ve decided it’s time to move on to my next adventure. This Friday will be my last day at Microsoft.
As promised, here’s a the slide deck from this past weekend’s game workshop covering WebGL and Unity:
My thanks to all the folks who attended today’s Windows Game Development Workshop, and particularly for the folks who stuck around for hands-on fun with building games with Construct 2.
I’ve uploaded the slides and workbooks from the workshop to our Github WinGameKits hub. The slides and workbooks have all the links you need to practice hands-on developing a basic platformer game and export it for publishing in the Windows Store, so even if you didn’t get a chance to attend the workshop, feel free to download the workbooks and give them a try!
Here are some resources and blog posts from my fellow Technical Evangelists here in East Region: