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Apple is a Microsoft OEM

"Jason, don't your hands burst into flames when you touch an Apple product?"

I remember the giggles in the room years ago when a customer would bring a Mac into a Microsoft meeting. I have to admit, I was that guy a few years ago before I joined Microsoft. This practice, the giggling, still happens from time to time.

Today, I use a PC about 90% of the time. My primary desktop PC with dual monitors is running Windows. My Surface Pro 3 is running windows. Even my MacBook Pro has Windows installed in Parallels. I feel at home on Windows. It's where I grew up.

Still, I get looks of shock when I bring a Mac into a customer meeting. I'm sure the reactions are just a holdover from a bygone era, but I feel compelled to explain myself.

I'll often get questions from other Microsoft employees. "Is that allowed?". Interestingly, they'll have a Lenovo, HP, Dell, etc. But the way I see things, we're all just using an OEM for our hardware. If you're not using a Microsoft Surface device, you purchased a device that Microsoft does not manufacture. The last time I checked, Microsoft was still a software company. The Surface Pro/Book is a demonstration of the state of the art.

Microsoft != Windows

Microsoft Azure was renamed from Windows Azure. The reason? It has no connection to Windows. It's great for Linux. Even Windows is great at Linux now. SQL Server runs on Linux. Office runs on Mac. You can use SharePoint from any device. Visual Studio Code runs on Mac and Linux.

Windows is just one great product that Microsoft makes. I happen to prefer it over OSX.

I'm of the opinion that this can be extended to products like the iPhone, Android, and various watches. Microsoft has an impressive lineup of apps on iPhone and Android, many of them best in class. I can still edit my Office documents regardless of my phone OS.

My OS choice has been decoupled from my application and services choice.

When I bring my Mac into a meeting and I'm developing my next Azure application in Visual Studio Code, reading my email in Outlook, and creating spreadsheets in Excel, I no longer understand why my Apple laptop running all Microsoft software is all that interesting.

Use what you like, and remember that the world has changed.

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Build 2016 Recap

Windows

Visual Studio

Xbox

Hololens

Skype

  • UWP app
  • Cortana integration for brokering conversations
  • Video bots
  • Skype for hololens

Bots

Microsoft Cognitive

Xamarin

  • Free for Visual Studio customers
  • Free for Visual Studio community customers
  • Xamarin studio free for mac free with MSDN
  • There will be a free version of Xamarin studio on Mac
  • Xamarin is going open source

Azure

Office 365

  • Latest tools available today
  • Ribbon extensibility
  • GA Office 365 group connectors
  • GA of Skype for Business SDK
  • Calendar integration
  • Sideloading of add-ins

SQL Server

  • 2016 RC1 available

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MS Dev Show Hardware Update

This is an update to my earlier post How We Produce the MS Dev Show Podcast. Carl and I have focused on streamlining the process to minimize the amount of time we need to dedicate on each episode. That means we have more time to spend with guests and content (and day job).

This is the setup Carl and I each have for a typical podcast:

Full Rig

Bye Compressor/Gate/Limiter

We previously had a compressor/gate/limiter wired in to our audio chain. What I've found is that there is nothing you can do in real-time during recording that you can't do in post editing. In fact, during editing, there is more information available. The Auphonic Multitrack Processor does a phenomenal job selecting the right track at the right moment, and determining the perfect level. It also does an amazing job at removing noise. For Carl and I with our good mics, the noise is minimal. For guests, sometimes we deal with a lot of noise. Auphonic reduces the noise as much as possible, and attenuates their track when they're not speaking.

Due to our dependence and quantity of usage of Auphonic, we switched from their online service to their desktop application. This means that we spend less time transferring files back and forth with the cloud, and we don't have to worry about per-episode costs.

Hardware Recorders

Zoom Recorder

We originally bought a Zoom H6 Six-Track portable recorder for a conference, but we were just blown away by the capabilities. We ended up buying a second as a spare. We also started using our hardware recorders as a backup for our audio tracks. By using a simple XLR splitter, we're able to use the recorders as dedicated audio backup devices. Even if Carl or I have a computer issue while recording the show, the hardware recorder ensures we have a reliable raw track to fall back on.

Our mics run into the XLR splitter, and then go directly into the hardware recorder as well as our USB interface. This simple design minimizes any single points of failure.

The recorder also functions as a mixer, and when we do shows at a conference, it's easy for us to adjust gains while recording.

Better Cables

We found out the hard way that our cables sucked. Interestingly, price doesn't seem to correlate with quality. We had a cable with a bad end that would cause occasional static.

TIP: If you have a bad cable, cut it and throw it away! It's not worth keeping!

We've had good luck with Hosa XLR cables. The ends are top quality, and the connections have been great.

Hosa XLR Cable

Headphones

A good pair of headphones will allow you to hear a complete range of sound without artificially changing it. Not only do they sound great for music, but they also give you an unbiased representation of what you're recording. During the editing process, they're invaluable in hearing every detail.

I picked up the Audio Technica ATH-m50x headphones. They come with interchangeable cables. For podcasting, I use the coiled cable with a 1/4" connector. The cable extends long enough that I can go up to a few feet away from the USB interface if needed.

Audio Technica ATH-m50x

Basic Stands

I thought having a big boom arm for my mic was a necessity, but again, simpler turns out to be the better option. I switched over to a basic mic stand that I can just move into place on my desk. As an added bonus, it's over $100 less expensive.

Mic Stand

Isolation Shield

I have a sound isolation shield that I put on my desk behind the microphone which helps reduce echo from my walls and monitor.

Isolation Shield

Guest Gifts

Our amazing guests are one of our best assets. We wanted a way to show our appreciation. Starting in 2016, we'll be providing a care package to guests. We're still working on the details, but our current plan is to include the following:

  • A thank you letter
  • MS Dev Show M&Ms
  • An MS Dev Show mousepad
  • An MS Dev Show Moleskine notebook

M&M's mmmmm

What's Next?

One thing we're looking at is an easy way to wire in an XLR mute box. Basically, we want to have a button we can push to temporarily mute ourselves if our kids or pets are loud. We're still working on figuring out the best option here.

Summary

I believe the absolute key to keeping a podcast going is making it as little work as possible. This allows you to focus on content.

Automate.

Keep it simple.

Enjoy.

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Jason Young I'm Jason Young, software engineer. This blog contains my opinions, of which my employer - Microsoft - may not share.

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