Tried Something New

Wooden Apple

I decided to try out two new Apple devices a few months ago.  The main points of this was not to upset my local group of cronies who are somewhat “all things PC and not fruit”, but to simply upgrade my current PC to newer hardware.  I’d heard of other folks trying this and repaving the initial Lion or Snow Leopard image with Windows7, but I had a few things in mind: I wanted to shift the way I used a laptop, specifically one with fewer buttons and one with (IMHO) superior graphics and display; I still wanted to keep a Windows7 image on the machine; I wanted my music and photography to follow me around instead of putting some pics over here, and then some over there.

Sure, there’s a slew of gestures and key combinations to learn but the last time I had to learn a keyboard I was in typing class in high school, so my brain is enjoying the attention and exercise at the moment.

Two good friends (also coders) have been using Apple machines (and phones) for a while, who I used as resources to ask specific questions about the configuration a.k.a. features to add at buy time, and how to run Windows7 as well since my day job still requires some coding tools that only run on Windows.  They’re smart guys so I trust them and they were right.  It has been a blast so far, and moving back and forth from the MBP and the HP hasn’t been terrible but I do find myself mashing on the track pad on my HP laptop and obviously nothing happens.

A good friend of mine told me this one time, “if you want to work, use a PC; if you want to play, use a Mac”.  He was right. Totally.  Now that I used my MBP for both work and play things seem more normal, not sure what word to use there, but maybe you get it.  At any rate its been a great journey so far, the hardware is awesome, the graphics are clean and crisp, and there’s no shortage of help when I’m trying to figure things out.  The thing that probably sticks out in my mind the most is the amount of time I don’t wait for the laptop to startup and shutdown.  I’ve probably saved about 12 days of my life since December not waiting for things to start and stop.  I was glad to wait in the old days, now I’m a bit less patient, and I like it better when things are more snappy.

I also recently purchased an iPad.  The main driver for this was to have face-time with daughters and their kids since there’s a lot of distance between FL and OH.  The face-time so far has been awesome, and it’s great connecting randomly with my girls.  I also discovered so many apps to help organize me.  Most notably are Remember the Milk, and FlipBook.  Other apps that stream things are more of a distraction during go-time so I won’t list those, but I will say that there’s probably no reason to continue buying music when some many applications can stream it.

FlipBook really does a fine job of collating all of the blogs I read (7 total); plus it connects all the other social stuff too which is nice but not necessary – and its free.  All of my magazine subscriptions have companion applications as well, this means I don’t have to stop reading, oh, and all of the eBooks and PDFs I stuff into DropBox are available too and they read like I’m using a giant Kindle; I can’t read outside but if I’m outside I probably won’t have a book in my hand anyway.  I still like books.  I have a lot of them, so I don’t see myself replacing that experience with an iPad.

All of the other usual stuff is basically the same, the PC could do the same as the iPad or MBP; there are some nicer trade-offs though but I’m really enjoying this change so far.  A lot!

Getting my head around Windows Azure, Preamble Ramble

 

azurethumb

I’ve become very intrigued with Azure lately and also an Azure idiot at the same time.  Well, maybe not a total idiot but it’s a huge platform.  I’ve been following some of the guidance from the MS PnP team to get my feet wet but recently I’ve just wanted to dive in.

The main idea for taking this approach is to just focus on one thing.  I’ve been a scatter-brained developer for the last few years and recently after coming off a long project, I just want to focus on one (albeit large) technology stack.  There’s one or two other things I’ll poke at but this is one that’s going to get a lot of my daytime focus.

So as to not get any readers tangled up in the who or what I’m building, I’ll be *very* generic in my descriptions of everything except the technology.  So hopefully some of this will be simple enough to use on your own projects, and help with the why, that’s the plan anyway.

Orlando Code Camp 2011

Over the last few months I’ve been spending just about every available hour working with the Orlando .NET User Group board and development team to build our Orlando Code Camp event for 2011. It’s an annual event that draws a few hundred Microsoft .NET Developers to our great city. We feed our minds, bellies, and idea factories with great stuff for the upcoming year.

This year we had the distinct pleasure of having our code camp begin with a plug from a Senior VP at Microsoft on video, it was the kick-off to an awesome day. We also had the distinct pleasure of being the 2nd largest code camp in the United States – next year we are going to grab that #1 slot for sure.  We have lots of ideas for the upcoming year, and the community has been blogging and tweeting like crazy (#OrlandoCC) about the event as well.

This year had a lot of great speakers, tracks, sponsors, and attendees – yes the attendees are what pushed into that #2 slot I just mentioned, and especially those folks in the bright green shirts – the volunteers!.  We were delighted they all gave up their weekend to spend it at our event.  They came from different parts of the US, and I know that one attendee hales from the UK – should’ve given him the furthest drive award.  Most of the sessions were full, and I heard great feedback from many attendees throughout the day.

We had John Papa (@John_Papa) in attendance as our featured speaker for the event.  He gave us a huge taste of what Silverlight 5 has up it’s sleeve – very cool stuff.  If you’ve never seen Scott Gu w/o his shirt, well you missed out – it was great demo.   We also had two up and coming speakers from our own user group, John Wang and Jay Hill, they nailed their own talks.  We’ll have some video from the event later on in April once post-production is finished showcasing some of the speakers in attendance.

The leader of our user group Esteban Garcia (@EstebanFGarcia) blogged about the event and put on a great talk as well, he also put a huge effort to get this event off the ground – he definitely has a vision for the community.  His blog post has all of the stats for how many, how much, etc., so I won’t spoil it for you.  I’m was (and still am) absolutely amazed at how many plates this guy can keep spinning at once.  He’s also an awesome .NET developer in his own right, there’s not too much stuff stumps Esteban – the community is very lucky to have a great leader like this.

We are going to ride this wave and keep the community rolling with some really cool stuff this year as well.  If you didn’t make it this year, don’t worry we’ve got you covered for next year. And if you did make to the event this year, thank you!

It Could Be Much Worse

I’ve never been a physio-nerd at all; like following what my body is doing as I get older and if or when I should start worrying about stuff.  I decided to dive into a book and find out what’s in my near future for my age.  After 30, stuff happens, after 40 more and different stuff happens and so on, and so on.  I work with guys who are younger than me so I see what they are up against right now and kind of compare that to what my “physio-whatevers” were doing back then.  that has been a bit  of a white elephant but did convince me that everyone, yes Virginia, everyone is created differently.

I had someone recommend (can’t remember who, but I’m told that more exercise will increase short-term memory) a book about 40-something guys’ health stuff.  So I took their advice and decided to figure what’s going on b/c I can’t figure out what I think should be happening, and what I think shouldn’t be happening – that made no sense, but maybe exercise will help preventing making statements like that too.

Anyway, it’s go a lot of interesting facts backed up by this or that PhD or institute of something or other; it is interesting reading and it make sense when my brain tries to decipher each chapter.  Bottom line, I’m going to live; the other part of my findings so far is that I can live longer if I do and don’t do certain things.   Of course every single syllable sounds like common sense – but we know common is sense isn’t common; so I’m learning which is good and like I said just from what I learned so far, it could (totally) be much worse.

This month my first endeavor will be to join a Couch To 5K group at my company’s health center.  That should be fun, and rewarding according to this book.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

Moving On, Finally

I’ve been working with a team who will take over system support for a system my team has been building.  My team worried that we didn’t “deliver to the audience” while we delivered what we believe the customer wanted.

“Delivering to the audience” means, did we build something that developers (seasoned or not) could learn to understand, pick-up, and eventually own.  The big brass ring is always, can folks learn how to be more efficient or learn what not to do, with what we created – either case is still a valuable lesson.

 

This week we had three sessions.  Covered most everything we needed that exposed the patterns we used, and the ones we chose not to use.  Most of the dialog that came across the table led me to believe that they were going to get it, and it was going to sink in.  Our team who uses an unused executives office as a work room literally has an open door policy.  We stay available in IM and email contexts as well since most folks, developers in general, would rather communicate electronically.  The folks I met with this week seem to be more face-to-face and ready to get this stuff on them.  All good indicators that I can move off of this system with little or no ties to this system post-go-live.

So the goal here is to move back into what my team initially did, which I’m being told may change a bit in the future.  It sounds exciting and a bit spooky as well.  However, we enjoy being part of a larger strategy team that  helps folks learn how to be more efficient or learn what not to do, with what other folks (large and small software shops outside of our own shop) created by kicking tires and test-driving software in a real(our)world context.

I’ve always hated moving, but now I realize that not all moving is bad.  Sometime we have to move on, other times we’re asked or forced to move on; at least this time there are no boxes to unpack.

It’s farther than you think

Lake Apopka Loop

Lake Apopka Loop

Today we went to a local trail that was converted from unused railroad tracks.  It’s a loop that is farther than I’m sure, but it’s called the Lake Apopka Loop.  We started down the trail and really didn’t set out to do a full 20 miles, it was the first time we had all four bikes on the carrier (which was a bit of a Rubik’s cube) and on this particular trail.  20 miles it is.

Three hours later, and at almost complete exhaustion, we returned to the trail head where we started out.  If you look at the map to the right, we did the yellow line, back and forth 10-miles each way.

At the 1/2 way point cramps had already set in, by the time we reached the last incline before the trail head none of us had any drive left.  Hopefully the next time I take on a twenty-mile trek it won’t be so far.

What a great day for a ride, kind of chilly, definitely not hot however it felt like we rode into the wind going in both ways.

Great day, great ride.

Today, A Win

Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting time into reading about patterns that aid in moving new ideas into organizations, i.e. what to do first, what to do next, how to keep the wheels on the idea.  One of the first patterns talks about weaving your new idea into your own work, then sharing it with others for validation and/or buy-in.  There’s more to it than this, but here’s where I’ll start my story.

I’d taken a very different approach to building in a feature for an application at my shop.  The business had a lot of input on how they need to perform tasks, I captured what I thought was everything in one, one hour meeting last month.  I used my (borrowed from a conference last year) idea for how to compose the information they had shared and today I shared their information in a new format they probably have never seen.  Four levels of employees all reading from the same pages, and everyone got that I populated those few pages with pictures, ideas, and information that told the story of how one part of the business works.

We went from the dry stuff to something a bit more interactive and fun – I let the end users show me how the feature’s workflow would be most beneficial for their day-to-day operation.  They seemed to get excited to have some authorship on the idea, and all with a low-tech prototype that allowed from quick changes on the fly as the conversation progressed.  We finished with only go over 15 minutes beyond our allotted time.

A good day, today, a win.