Sunday, October 5, 2014

The one year plan

Was that a bird?


I normally upgrade my phone every year. And, I'm completely embedded in the Apple ecosystem. So, I always get the latest phone from Apple. This year I decided to get the insanely huge iPhone 6 plus instead of the slightly bigger iPhone 6. I was worried that the big change in size would be difficult to deal with.

While I waited for my new phone to ship I used my 3d printer to print a mockup of the new phone.  I carried it in my pocket a few days to see how it felt. Not bad, but not the same as the real thing.

After almost two weeks with the new device and I'm not sure I ever want to go back. I really love this new computer.

Pros


  • Amazing screen
  • Great camera
  • Better battery
  • I have big hands and big pockets

Cons

  • Felt slippery to me at first - I'm using the Apple leather case now
  • If you have small hands I wouldn't get it

iOS8

  • Bugs Bugs Bugs There are several annoying bugs, that I'm sure they will fix - but till then ARRG
  • Extensions are great except for Bugs

If you like big phones and you like Apple phones then this one is for you. Oh, and if one more person asks me if it Bends...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Potter wasp

While working in the yard this weekend we noticed a strange looking thing in the Shrubs.



A quick search on the net revealed the creator of this amazing structure. The Potter Wasp. More info on Wikipedia.

A solitary wasp that create little pots for their offspring.  Seriously kind of amazing. They fill the pot with paralyzed caterpillars, spiders, and other bugs. Then they lay an egg and cap the pot.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A little venting

No details here - but in my opinion, one of the worst ways to start development for a new web site:

  • Unclear requirements - make your best guess on major functionality
  • No idea how the site will be marketed
  • Intentionally tight, guaranteed to miss, deadline
  • Other teams that will almost certainly want to have some say in the design left out of planning. They will want major functionality changed later
  • Not focusing on User experience first

Stress levels are high. Confidence levels are low. Trying to stay positive. Just keep swimming.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Apple Watch, the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 6 Plus

On Tuesday, while we were having a blast in the Magic Kingdom, Apple announced the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Like everyone else that was following along with the rumors and leaks, I knew what to expect with the new phones. They look like great upgrades especially when combined with iOS 8. I watched the keynote sitting in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge and I ordered an iPhone 6 Plus Friday morning as we were leaving Disney World.

Apple also announced the long rumored Apple Watch. For me, the watch is more interesting than the new phones. I like the idea of glancing at my wrist to see if something requires more attention.  I'm curious about the health tracking abilities and how they will enhance what I'm already getting from the motion co-processor in the iPhone 5S.  I'm even intrigued by the tap based 'intimate' communication interface that was shown.  Looking forward to trying the watch out and seeing how it evolves in future iterations.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chromebook First Impressions

On a whim, I bought an ASUS Chromebook C300MA-DB01. I wanted to see if it could work as a secondary work computer. I don't have a laptop at work, and I'm not comfortable with leaving my Macbook Air there all the time.

I fully expected to be a little disappointed with the performance and screen quality. I also expected to be annoyed by the simplistic browser based OS.  Wow! was I wrong.  If you are ok with storing things in the cloud, and using Google services, then this might be a perfect second device.  While on my work network, I can ssh into my main computer, I can remotely edit code, and I can test websites with chromes developer tools.  All of my Chrome bookmarks and extensions were there the moment I logged in, and there's a good selection of apps on the  app store.

The only problem I have had so far, is with getting my work VPN connection setup correct.  The Chrome OS needs to provide easier setup for VPN configuration.  However, based on information other Chromebook users have compiled, I should be able to get VPN working correctly. It's just not a simple configuration. If I use it mainly at work, I won't really need the VPN to work.

I could easily suggest this as a secondary cheap alternative to a table or laptop for my Developer friends. Some of the newer models even have better screens.  But, don't expect something this cheap to blow you away with build quality.

I can easily suggest a Chromebook as a primary device for family members or normal people that do not require special software or graphics heavy games.  Most people do not need more than this.  And it's more secure and easier to use than Windows or Mac OSX.



10,000 Steps

This year we decided to become more active. This decision came about mostly because of our upcoming Disney World trip. But, we also wanted to increase our average activity level to lose weight and to improve our health. When we started my average week looked something like this:



I'm using the Pedometer++ app and the iPhone 5S M7 chip to track my walking. Slowly increasing my goal over several months results in a graph that looks more like this:



The change was gradual and for the most part easy. Combining increased activity with fewer snacks is also having the side effect of lowering my weight. Which I really, really, really need to happen. I also feel better and have more energy than I have in years.

Not much else to say about it. Buy good shoes, Read this, and give it a try.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mac Gaming and Keeping the Faith

When I switched to the Mac several years ago, the only big concern was access to PC games.  But, there is dual booting, and there are virtual solutions, so I jumped in and never looked back. These days more and more games are coming out with support for the Mac on day one. But, I still find myself getting excited for a new game, only to be totally disappointed when I see that it is PC only.

"Just suck it up and run windows."

My solution used to be exactly that.  But, now I'm taking a different approach.  I don't buy games that do not support the operating systems I use.  I do not support developers that do not provide software for my platform. It is that easy and simple. Sure, I would like to play Space Engineers or Fable Anniversary, but they are not available on OS X. So just get on with your life already. :)

The best way to influence a company's behavior is with money.  Don't buy it or do buy it. The choice you make will help them to make decisions going forward. Now I know I'm in a minority on this, and I know that my one purchase won't make a huge difference. But, it's what I can do.  Oh, I also do not download the game illegally.  Don't be that guy.

Mac Games on Steam

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Paying for Content because Reasons

I am somewhat of an anomaly among my friends. I do not download music, tv, or movies illegally, and I do not take content from friends. I do not have Cable TV. So I wait till Game of Thrones is out on Blu-ray.  I buy season passes on iTunes or Amazon. I watch Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I will sometimes go to a Providers web site to watch shows, which means I still see commercials in some cases.

Having said that, I can completely understand why a vast majority of people download content illegally.  The industry wants you to spend your money on Cable TV.  They want you to pay for 200 channels you don't watch. They want to send you to the Theater to watch a movie. They do not want to provide a-la-cart programming. They want you watching commercials. They will do everything they can to maintain control and lack of choice.  Even though most people can easily get the content they want with little hassle.

So whats the net result of this.  I'm watching less TV than ever and I don't miss most of it and I spend less on TV and Movies.  I am more choosey when determining what I will watch.

The content providers should be afraid of the changing landscape. But, they may want to think less about cord-cutters that pirate media, and more about the people that learn that they don't really need most of what they used to watch.




Thursday, May 8, 2014

Let us become more organized.

We use the reminders app on iOS for sharing to-do's at home, along with a small white-board on the fridge.  This works great for the kinds of things we do at home, and let's be honest, Lisa keeps things up to date, like a Boss. 

But, at work it makes more sense to keep notes and to-do lists in text form.  I work on multiple operating systems and I like to enter notes on whatever system is more convenient at that particular time.  A while back I switched to Markdown for these documents.  It lets me keep the files on Dropbox, and share them between Linux, Mac OS X, and iOS with little hassle.  I thought I would share what I'm doing currently on each of these platforms.

Linux

  • Node JS:  I have a simple Server running on my Work Desktop that serves up all files in my share folder.  One of the files in this folder is a symbolic link to a folder in Dropbox where I keep my work related markdown files.  This server will serve up HTML versions of all my Markdown files.  This lets me share and view these files easily.
  • Sublime Text: I have a licensed copy of Sublime I use to edit my notes. I'm working on some Sublime plugins to help me with repeatable tasks.

Mac OS X

  • Sublime Text: Works on all major desktop operating systems.
  • NVAlt: I'm taking a look at this, but I'm not sure if I like the way files are managed.

iOS

  • Drafts: Gives me the ability to quickly create and append to markdown documents stored on Dropbox.  If I have a quick thing I need to add to a to-do list I can type it and choose where I want the text to go.
  • ByWord: A simple Markdown friendly editor for iOS.
  • Editorial: A great programmable editor for the iPad. I've created scripts for Editorial to add tasks to todo lists, mark them as complete, and even timestamp when they were completed.

General

  • Mingle: We use Mingle to manage stories and tasks. I try not to duplicate the information stored here.

My Ever Changing Workflow

  • I keep a separate directory for each sprint. Something like 'Work/2014/Sprint 7'.  I have a script that creates a new directory and places empty files for things like a to-do list, planning notes, retrospective notes, and demo notes.
  • If I need to add something to my to-do list for a sprint. I use Drafts, ByWord, or Sublime-Text. Which I use depends on where  I am, what platform, and whether its a quick addition, or something more involved.
  • If I need to share these notes with someone, I can simply give them a link to my desktop Node server. That way they will always have the latest version of the file. 
  • As I complete tasks I just add **DONE**.
I mentioned above that I'm writing some Sublime Text plugins to match what I have on Editorial.  I don't always bring my iPad to work.

I hope this helps in some small way.  I'm still trying to be more disciplined about updating my notes. I hope to evolve and update the tools I use while keeping it simple.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Angular JS and the New World Order

JavaScript is Dead, Long Live JavaScript.


Over the last couple of months my day job has been undergoing a transition.  We decided to change our thinking about Web Applications. We realized just how far behind we were. Web Applications have changed. The wild west is being tamed. the structured MVC world we are used to in the back in, has moved into the browser. Instead of single pages being rendered after each request to the server, we have full featured stateful applications running in the browser. Meanwhile the servers, where much of this logic and state used to exist, have now become reusable restful data providers.  The whole stack has shifted.

None of this is new of course. It's been going on for years, but I've only just poked my head out of the trenches and realized.  In a broader sense it's the same transition that has been going on for years.

So if like me you had not been paying attention Start Here: