TFS builds suddenly slowed down?

As your TFS environment grows, as well as your software stack that’s built within it, it can be easy to overlook some pretty simple things to keep performance where it needs to be.

On occasion we had noticed that builds slowed down dramatically, resulting in cranky developers and dev managers.  While space on the build drop location was tight (builds, unless aggressively managed will, like work, fill all the space / time available!), but that was a normal constraint, not something new.  It took a while to figure out, but when I did it was obvious.  In retrospect!.

Make sure to disable both real time and periodic virus scanning on your build drive (or at least folders).  We had real time scanning disabled, but overlooked the periodic scans.  At first glance, the periodic scans would seem to not be an issue since they occurred on a Sunday when there was minimal development (and thus builds) happening; however, the massive amount of space, and the huge number of files involved in our build drops meant that scanning continued from Sunday well into the work week!  Note that I’m talking about the build server itself, not the drop location, but the same rule really applies there too.

The only way to identify this issue was to watch the Performance Monitor and catch that the MSMPENG process had a ton of open file handles to build files.  The CPU and disk overheard was initially lost in the “noise” of many simultaneous builds.

Hope this helps someone!

Todays Tidbit – charging issues with a Lightning connector?

I recently began running into a problem where my iPhone 6 wouldn’t charge reliably.  If I wiggled the cable around it would start charging, then stop again.  I tried diagnosing it by using different cables and different orientations for them, but none of the solutions were reliable.

It turns out this would seem to be a fairly common problem among iPhone users who keep it in their jeans pocket.  The lint from the pocket migrates its way into the port on the phone and causes this issue!

I cleaned mine out by using a soft toothpick.  The amount of lint that came out was very impressive!

My wife’s phone didn’t suffer from this.  She points out that jeans for women don’t have pockets deep enough to hold the phone, thus no lint.

A discussion thread on this can be found on Apple support.

Today’s Tidbit: Quickly moving emails to folders in Microsoft Outlook for the Mac

I’m going to use Today’s Tidbit as my way of sharing a lot of little things that can make using your computer (PC or Mac) easier and more efficient.

Today, let’s learn how to file emails quickly in Microsoft Outlook for the Mac.

To start, have one or more emails selected.

Press Command-Shift-M and you’ll see a Search window come up.


Begin typing the folder name that you want move the email to:


Hit Return when the folder is at the top and boom, you’re done!

This is far faster than how Outlook for Windows does things as the Mac version will search subfolders as you type, but the Windows version requires that you navigate to the proper parent folder before typing text will start to find a folder for you.

The Lasik Diary – 21 Days Later

Yesterday was a great day.  After working for about 30 minutes I realized I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses.  While the screen wasn’t in perfect focus, it was good enough!  I worked through the whole day without glasses, only reverting to using them last night while reading on my iPad Air.

Here’s the journey from getting my eyes zapped to that point.

The Week After

The first week after having Lasik will probably be the most frustrating.  For the first 5-7 days you will need to deal with a variety of issues and preventative measure.  In no particular order, these are:

Eye puffiness

The morning after the procedure, I looked like I had cried all night.  By the end of the week the puffiness had receded and I looked pretty much like my normal self – tired.

Eye drops

If you’re not comfortable putting eye drops in, you will be!  Four times a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and at bedtime), you’ll need to put in two different sets of eye drops.  One is an antibiotic, and one is a steroid.  One drop in each eye of the first, then wait 15 minutes and put in the next set of drops.  Given how poor my near vision was during this week, I used Siri on my iPhone to schedule alarms (“Siri, set an alarm for 15 minutes from now”).  I would clean up the alarms periodically, but I here’s what my alarms list looked like at one point.

Its Alarming Really Alarming

Dry eyes

You are warned that you will need eye wetting drops, and to use them even if you don’t think you need them – especially if you work at a computer all day.  For the first full week, I used them every day 45 minutes after my normal eye drop routine, and when needed in between.  After the first week eye drop process ended, I began using them as needed, and I’ve found that for the past few days I haven’t needed them at all.

Poor reading vision

I don’t know the science behind it, but your near vision may be suboptimal for a while.  Something about the muscles in your eyes having been damaged during the process and needing time to recover. In my case, I found that until recently I needed reading glasses whenever I needed to read.  Even today, while writing this, I’m using them.  Do keep in mind, that at the office I use a slightly lower resolution monitor than I do at home, so I’ve been needing them at home more than at work.

Halos – not just for games and angels anymore

Something you’ll have to deal with will be halos and glare. The first time I drove at night, which was three days after the procedure, they were very distracting.  These symptoms are at their worst when looking at a bright light, when in a dark area.  For example, when I watch TV at night with the lights out, will see glare around the screen.  If individual words are on the screen (like titles, or credits), it’s very easy to see the halo around them.  This is still ongoing for me, but getting better.

The goggles!  They do nothing!

Oh wait, they do something.  Since your eyes won’t be “comfortable” for a while and are sensitve to poking, you’ll have to wear goggles or eyeguards at night.  These are inexpensive, nearly flat shields for your eyes.  You’ll be able to see with them on, but it will be obvious that you’re wearing them.  I wore mine for five days (per instructions).  Once I did wake up when my finger bumped against the goggles, so apparently in my sleep I was going in for an eye rubbing (a big no no!).

Eye strain and variation

Your eye has been operated on.  It’s going to take time to heal.  While it is healing, you will find your vision moves around a bit.  By this I mean, one day it will be “good”, then the next day it might be worse!  This is disheartening, but expected.  I’ve found that, so far, it seems to get better in leaps and then stabilize there for a while.  The negative variability is pretty much gone, now things are only getting better.

After the First Week

After your first week, things start to settle down with your vision.  I’m pretty much fully functional, except for needing reading glasses for some things.  I still can’t rub my eyes, which on occasional requires me to stop a thoughtless attempt to do it.

At this point, it’s really down to “This is great!  I wonder when I’ll know if I’ll need reading glasses?”  I was warned that due to my age they couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t, so I’m okay with possibly needing them.  However, the uncertainty is suboptimal.  I just keep telling myself that it will take three to six months for my eyes to be completely done changing from the procedure, and I need to be patient.  The same goes for haloing and glare.  It gets better and better, but it’s still around.  Three to six months, three to six months…

Well, that’s pretty much it.  Have eyes zapped by lasers, spend about a week doing some new maintenance tasks on your eyes, and then ride out the time to see where things stand.

Overall I’m very happy with having had the procedure done, and I’m looking forward to writing a “final” post on the subject in February.

The Lasik Diary – Day 0

Some Context

When I was considering Lasik, I was made aware that I might instead have to pursue PRK.  Thanks to a blog I decided that I wasn’t willing to pursue PRK if it was the only option available to me.  When I was searching for information about Lasik and the recovery time and process, almost everything I found was from sites related to places that do the work.  So hopefully you’ve come across this blog before going under ‘the knife’ and this will help you know what you’re about to go through, and what recovery is like.

Oh yeah, just in case it isn’t obvious, I’m not a doctor, don’t treat anything I write here as being accurate, and don’t look for me if your eyes are melted out of your skull during the procedure.

The Before Time

Every story needs a paragraph or two to set the stage!

I’ve needed glasses since I was around 10 years old.  That was a long, long time ago (well over 30 years) so dealing with glasses (and for a brief period, contacts) has been something I’ve done the majority of my life.

Over time, my eyes have changed enough to require either bifocals or progressive lenses.  I opted for the progressives and they worked well enough, but you really do need to move your head around based on what you’re looking at (far vision is at the top, reading vision is at the bottom, and everything else is in-between).

Finally I decided to see what could be done about it!

The Initial Consultation

When you’re considering Lasik (or PRK for that matter), you’ll go to the optometrists office for an initial exam and consultation.  During this exam they take pictures of the back of your eye, check your vision, dilate your eyes, and do pretty much the same stuff you’d get at a normal optometrist visit.  After this, you’ll find out if you qualify for Lasik or if you need to find another way to spend your mad money.

While waiting for my eyes to dilate, the optometrist told me about the way the actual procedure will happen, and that was pretty informative.  I was told at this time that PRK might be required, but that they would know before the procedure.

The Day Of

I was told to set aside four hours and to make sure I had a driver (you need one after your eyes were dilated in the previous visit as well!).  My wife got me to the appointment about 40 minutes early (yay for Chicago traffic uncertainties!) and I checked in.  During this process you sign a lot of papers basically saying “this is optional, under no circumstances do you need this, and if something goes wrong, you can try to sue us but it won’t matter, and besides, we’ve created a shell company for you sue”.  I may have shortened it up a bit.  You will also be given the opportunity to approve or deny PRK as an option.  Obviously I denied it.

Then you’ll wait around for a while, and then they’ll call you in for another quick exam.  They take some pictures of your eyes (using some devices that leaves ‘psycho’ images in your eyes for a few moments!) and they check out the general health of them with a probulator of some sort.

After that, you get booted into another room with all the other victims, er, patients, and get to watch a video about the process.  In my case, the video spent about 80% of the time going over the eye drop situation and infection management.  They aren’t kidding around about this stuff!  Make sure to pay attention.

Then more downtime.

The the doctor (optometrist?  I dunno, I’m not an M.D.) had another talk with the whole group of us reviewing the eye drop process, and telling anyone who wears makeup to pretty much buy new so that there was reduced chance of infection (once you’re allowed to wear it again – I’ll list the restrictions at the bottom of this post).  The doctor was pretty cool and made everything very approachable.

The more waiting… You remember the part about ‘four hours’?  Yeah, if you didn’t, you will.  Bring some reading material.  Or be prepared to watch daytime TV for a while.

The Procedure

I was #9 in line (like the DMV, it looks like you’re processed in the order received).  Once they started doing procedures, it seemed like each person only took 10 minutes.

I received a heads up that I was next, so I donned my hair net (managing to dodge the wife trying to take a picture of me with it on – no doubt to end up on Facebook if she succeeded), and went into the room.

The have you lay down on a couch/table which is comfy enough given the situation.  You have to adjust up and down to get properly positioned and then they’ll swing you under the laser.

The Actual Procedure

This will take longer to read (and way longer to write) than it happens in reality, so bear with me.

They will put a cover over one eye, then ask if you’re ready.  Say yes, or get out now.

They put numbing drops in the eye, then almost immediately they fit some sort of eyelid spreader to your eye to keep you from blinking.  They were real pros, this part happened instantly – I saw it coming and bam, it was in place.

Then they lower a ring onto your eye which is a suction device.

“Look at the green dot and try to look surprised”.  The look surprised bit is to raise your eyebrows to reduce your natural instinct to squeeze your eyes shut when they’re being violated.

“You’ll feel some pressure”, and they turn on the suction.  You do feel a little, but nothing that’ll bother you.

“Things are going to go dark now”, and holy cow, this part is weird.  While you’re staring at the green dot (with some red light action going on around it the whole time by the way), your vision in the uncovered eye fades to black.  To be honest this was the creepiest part for me.

A few seconds later your vision comes back, the suction ring comes off and…

The doctor swipes at your eye with a q-tip from the bottom to the top.  Now, when I say q-tip, I don’t literally mean one of the fuzzy ones, but a stick with a bit on the end that was probably foam but holy hell my eye has a stick rubbing on it and…

Your vision gets really, really bad.  The assault with the q-tip is the doctor wiping the flap of your cornea that was cut into your eye during the suction process. Surprise! I honestly don’t know if they used a laser or a blade to do this, but either way, the cutting was not noticeable, the staggering vision change when they swipe it up is.

“Watch the green dot” with the wavy red lines…

And it’s time for the magic.  You’ll hear click, click, click or maybe clunk, clunk, clunk and then you’ll notice someone saying “50% done… 70% done… 100% done…” and the clicking stops.  During this time I found it very hard to focus on the green dot and I swear my eye wandered around for a bit, but the computers driving the laser contain magic, and will apparently avoid engraving a Z for Zorro on your eyeball if you do move.

Oh yeah, during this time you might smell something burning…  That’s right, it’s your eyeball.  Uh, yum?

Back to the doctor with another q-tip!  He then swiped down from the top of the eye, and basically smoothed the skin flap down like smoothing down wallpaper.  In go some more eyedrops, then out comes the eyelid spreader, and a patch goes over the eye.

You’re 50% of the way done!

At this point, they’ll do the exact same thing to your other eye.

This whole part of the process, from when they cover your eye to when they’re done takes around 5 minutes.  It’s a whole lot of new and not really pleasant experiences during that 5 minutes, but hey, if you’re adult enough to need this, you can handle being uncomfortable for a bit.

I likened it to having dental work done, but it doesn’t go on for as long.  Or hurt as much.

After The Procedure, But Before You Can Go…

They’ll take you from the table to sit on a stool so that they can use a microscope to look at your eyes just to make sure everything is all good.  In my case it was.  At that point I put on my goggles (yeah, you’ll learn to ‘love’ those) and was out the door.

Once You’re Out…

Hooray!  You’ve had Lasik!  You walk out into the waiting area looking, as my wife put it, like Speed Racer due to the googles.  Wait a second, where are my glasses?  Oh, they’re in the little packages containing my goggles, eyedrops and other stuff.  Holy cow!  I’m not walking into things!  Yea, my eyes are tearing up (duh, lasers) but I can see!  Just not anything up close…

The First Night…

You are not going to be doing any TV watching, email reading, or anything that first evening.  In fact, you are supposed to go home and take a 4 hour nap (Tylenol PM helps).  This gets you past the discomfort (again, lasers) and gives your eyes a chance to heal.  Then you’ll wake up and put in eye drops for the first time and then just try to chill.  And enjoy your goggles as you’ll be wearing them all night.

Your eyes might itch a bit, and you might feel a bit of ‘foreign body’ irritation.  To me it felt like a rogue eyelash, but it didn’t last too long.

The Day After…

In the morning I woke up and got to see how things would work for that day.  Right after I took off the goggles, I got to see the pictures on the wall opposite my bed in what seemed like crystal clarity for the first time ever.  Hooray!  I still couldn’t read worth a damn though.  A phone screen looked just like a blur, and so did any paper I tried to look at.  TV on the other hand was very clear.  I spent my day watching podcasts through Apple TV, and catching up on Game of Thrones.  Made it through most of a season in two days and now I can’t wait for Season Five to get going.

You will have an appointment this first day to verify that everything is okay, and in my case, it was.  Each eye checked out fine, and during a sight test I could read the target line with some difficulty.  I found out after the fact that the line was the 20/20 line, and that I was right on track.

Complete healing and adjustment of my vision will take three to six months.  I will be writing a post about the first week next, but my eyes need a rest.

The Rules

There are are a lot of things you cannot do for a while after the procedure, here’s a list:

  • No strenuous exercise for 5 days (not a problem)
  • No air travel for a week (there goes the vacation to Aruba)
  • Avoid dirty / dusty environments for 2 weeks (I’ve had to cross the street a few times to avoid construction)
  • No eye makeup for 2 weeks (and its suggested that you just buy new makeup – it’s all about infection management)
  • No smoking for a week (not an issue for me)
  • No swimming, hot tubs or tanning beds for 30 days
  • No rubbing the eyes for 30 days (this is a lot harder than you might think!).
  • No lakes, rivers or oceans for 90 days
  • No scuba diving for 6 months

Well, that’s about it.  Hope you’ve found this informative.  I’ll answer any questions that come through, but remember, I’m not a doctor!

My time with a Pebble Smart Watch

Some History

Any of us who are paying attention to the blogosphere and tech articles know that “smart” watches are the next “big thing”.  I won’t give a whole history of the smartwatch wars, but Microsoft seems to have tried to pioneer this with the Spot series of watches, but Pebble reignited the market in May of 2012 with their Kickstarter campaign.

Since then, Samsung has come out with their Galaxy Gear series of devices, Google is marketing a concept watch, and of course, all the rumors say Apple is working on something.

My First Run In With a Pebble

Towards the end of last year my good friend Miguel Castro showed up wearing a Pebble watch.  During his time in meetings, I noticed him checking his watch frequently.  At one point he stopped and mentioned that he wasn’t checking the time, but glancing at emails and notifications and he wasn’t trying to be rude.

Social – Not Just About Websites

This got me to thinking about the social aspects of smart watches.  Normally, if you’re at a meeting, conversing with someone or on a date, if you’re caught looking at your watch, it’s usually an indication of boredom.  Will smart watches changes this?  Could it be seen as more polite to quickly glance at your watch rather than constantly pulling your phone out of your pocket?  Of course, the “proper” solution in all cases is to keep your phone in your pocket, and your focus on the task at hand, but it seems that we’re quickly veering away from that single minded focus.

My Learning Time

I decided a bit ago to give a smartwatch a try and obviously ended up with the Pebble.

Historically I’ve been “into” watches and currently own 14 including the Pebble.  Would have had 15 but one “disappeared” during a move…  The watches that I’m into tend to be very thin and light, not those monstrous tank watches that people seem to love these days.

The Pebble vs. my favorite super thin Swatch watch…


Anyway, the size of the Pebble gave me some pause, it’s not terribly thin or small, but hey, I figured it was worth a shot.

I picked up the Pebble at a local Best Buy and fended off offers of extended warranties and screen protectors.  To be honest, if this thing breaks after 6 months, I’ll just buy the Apple one… assuming it’s out by then!

The first thing you need to do when you get a Pebble is charge it.  It was a bit disappointing that I couldn’t play with it during the drive home, but I guess as an adult I need to be able to keep myself entertained while my new gadget sits in a bag!

Once home and the watch was fully charged it was time to take it for a drive.  The first thing you have to do is link it to your phone, either iOS or Android will work fine.  Windows Phone 8 isn’t supported (more below).

Watch Faces

There are a wide variety of watch faces available for download through the Pebble app on the phone, and some are pretty good, but I find that the ones that try to emulate an analog watch face just aren’t that pretty.  The resolution on the screen isn’t good enough to render them crisply, so I’m generally staying with more digital or modern watch faces.

I did discover the Zoooom (Hop-Picker) one which is a great take on analog watches – definitely worth a look…

The overall watch face area doesn't differ too much...PebbleWithZoooom



I’ve only loaded two applications onto my Pebble.

The first one is Pebble Cards, which allows you to scroll up and down (slowly) between multiple information pages.  In my case, I have my appointments, the weather and battery % available.  While neat, I’ve found that there are a few issues that make it less than optimal.  One is the speed – switching between cards sometimes takes longer than just pulling my phone out or going to my laptop to see my next appointment.  Second is that even though I’ve turned off “other” calendars, it shows some stuff I don’t care about, and it gets in the way.  Finally, it just shows your next meeting, but only if you’re not currently in a meeting.  Fortunately for my sanity most of my meetings don’t last the allocated time, but the card keeps showing my “current” meeting with no way to see my next one.

The other app I have loaded is the Leaf app, which is a controller for our Nest thermostat.  Not much to say – it just works.

Daily Usage

Walking the dog…  Just having this on my wrist is handy while making sure our doggy doesn’t run into traffic.

Driving – at stops…  When I drive, I keep my phone out of sight.  However, if I know I’ve received messages and I reach a stoplight, a quick flick of my wrist will show me what I missed.  Easy, safe. fast and nondisruptive.

Declining and accepting calls… Honestly, I don’t use a mobile phone for too many calls, but when they do come in, a quick glance at the watch will tell me if it’s worth getting my phone out of my pocket.  And even allows me to answer or reject the call quickly.  If I’m wearing headphones (as I usually do when walking the dog), then it’s an even better experience.

Is that a call?  A text?  A phantom vibration?  A benefit I never thought about is clarity around whether your phone actually vibrated.  

 The Social Results

Here’s where the wheels fall off.  People with, shall we say, geekish tendencies will spot the watch and ask about it.  Generally they end up pretty impressed with it, and some even appreciate that it serves mostly as a notification device and doesn’t try to be a miniature phone.

After that though, the experience goes downhill pretty quickly.  If you are in a social situation, whether it is at work or out in the real world, if you are caught looking at your watch, people will think that you are bored.  I’ve been called out on this multiple times.  At lunch yesterday with some coworkers it was agreed that if you’re going to check your email, you might as well be honest about it and pull the phone out of your pocket and look.

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Over the past few weeks things have gotten a bit wonky.  Frequently the watch will display a missing connection icon while the phone is sitting right next to it.  At other times, a notification will show up on the iPhone lock screen indicating that the Pebble software wants to communicate with the watch, but when I swipe it, it doesn’t do anything related to that.  It just doesn’t work.

I’ve taken to rebooting the Pebble whenever anything weird happens and usually that fixes it for a bit.  But to be honest, if it doesn’t “just work”, then it’s a real problem.


In Summary

These watches are on the edge of greatness, and ones that are designed for Android phones are starting to get revised very quickly.  Pebble had better pick up the pace to remain competitive (adding colors is weak).  And finally, will Apple actually release a watch, and if they do, will I find myself actually willing to wear only one watch going forward?  Time will tell!