Windows Media Center, XBOX 360, Visual Studio, and You

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.

Continue reading Windows Media Center, XBOX 360, Visual Studio, and You

Always Backup. Always

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?

Continue reading Always Backup. Always

Boom Or Bust!

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.

Audio Quality.

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 G-Track_2into 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.

Your Turn

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.

Why I Think ALL Technical User Groups Should be on Meetup

This post may well come out sounding like an ad for Not my intent, but so be it if that’s how it comes across.

I’ll also state clearly that I don’t have any formal connection with Meetup, although I am a co-organizer of the DC/Baltimore Windows App Developers Meetup, and I’ve also written a couple of APIMASH Starter Kits that leverage the Meetup API.

Continue reading Why I Think ALL Technical User Groups Should be on Meetup

Protocol Activation: What Is It, What Apps Offer It, and How Can I use It in My Apps?


Protocol activation is a cool feature you can add to your Windows Store apps, and allows you to make your app more useful as well as more discoverable. For a video demonstration of how easy it is to add protocol activation to your app, skip to the end of the post. Otherwise, read on…

Continue reading Protocol Activation: What Is It, What Apps Offer It, and How Can I use It in My Apps?

FREE Download – Windows Phone 8 Book

Paul Thurrott, of Supersite for Windows fame, has finished the first edition of his Windows Phone 8 book, which he’s making available for FREE download via his website.

Better still, you can influence future editions of the book by sharing your feedback. Just download the PDF, and drop Paul an email via his About Page (the email is in the about text…out of respect for his inbox, I won’t reprint it directly here) and let him know about any issues you find.

My Site’s Fallen, and it Can’t Get Up!


Short version…some extra traffic crashed my blog last week, thanks to my decision to use cheap shared hosting. In response, I moved my blog to Windows Azure Web Sites, where I can easily scale to meet any traffic spikes. Read on for the background, or skip to “Making the Move” for the technical details.

The Background

Cheap hosting. It lures you in with the siren song of saving lots of money. And for a while, perhaps even a long while, it may give you everything you need. But sooner or later, you find out that you get what you pay for.

Continue reading My Site’s Fallen, and it Can’t Get Up!

Quick Tip: Analytics and InPrivate Browsing

Whatever analytics package you use to understand your site traffic, it likely uses cookies or IP addresses to exclude your visits from the statistics. If yours is cookie-based, it’s a good idea (particularly if you’re doing a bunch of edits or other maintenance) to avoid browsing your site using Internet Explorer’s InPrivate mode (or similar modes on other browsers), since it will not send the cookie(s), and as such your visits won’t be excluded.

How do I know this? Often, I’ll have a browser window open in InPrivate mode when I need to use different credentials from my day-to-day browsing, such as for admin tasks on my Azure services.

Continue reading Quick Tip: Analytics and InPrivate Browsing