Monday, January 31, 2011

Epic Snow

I saw on the news tonight that there is supposed to be a huge winter storm coming through. The people on the weather channel had me pretty worried actually. They were claiming this is the biggest winter storm to hit in about 15 years. Wouldn't it figure that it happens when I'm hundreds of miles away from my family.

Jennifer told me she brought a big load of firewood inside, moved her van into the garage, stocked up at the grocery store, and got all the candles out in preparation for it. Oddly, here in Virginia it's a balmy mid-40's F. I do fear that it may get worse before I leave though. My flight is Friday morning, and I go through Philadelphia for a short jaunt. Given this route, I may be delayed and possible fight some cancellations along the way. Yeah, I'm not looking forward to any of that.

Anyway, for now I'm enjoying a private stress free night here in VA hoping my girls get that snow day that they were so excited about over Skype tonight. :) Tomorrow brings some major weather for all you Ohioans, and I may wear a flannel to work, but no winter jacket will be necessary. Good luck and stay warm!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

CodeMash v2.0.1.1 (Recap)

As I mentioned in my last post, Codemash is a top notch event.

Live Concert on Wednesday NightWednesday night ended rather perfectly actually. After the Pre-Compiler sessions, Chris Castle and The Womack Family Band showed up to rock out the attendee party in the grand hall area. These guys were awesome! I purchased a CD of the Womack Family Band after their set, and purchased Chris Castle's CD directly off of iTunes. They had a great sound, and best of all they were fairly local (Norwalk, Ohio).

I got to talk with a lot of people at the party, and Jennifer came to join me after she got the girls out of the water park. We had a great time and she got to see me in my element (true geek talk). I ran into a few people and we would just start talking about programming languages and different technologies. She was a sport and stood by my side with a smile the entire time. :) After the attendee party, we walked around and ended up sitting at the bar for another hour before calling it a night.

Chad Fowler KeynoteThat next morning, the alarm went off fairly early for me and I was out the door for breakfast around 7:30 am. Chad Fowler was the keynote speaker this morning and he did an AWESOME job. He talked about what defined "quality" in code and showed lots of different examples. One story that caught my attention was a discussion about a chunk of code that he looked at and thought it was horrible, but then later discovered that the code has not been touched in 20+ years and was still working... That little story gave me a whole new definition for "code quality".

Kids Programming - Aydin Acksu

After the keynote, I attended a session by my good buddy Aydin Acksu, titled "Kids Programming". Of course, my girls all met me there for it and they got to control me around a grid using commands: step, step, right, step, left, step, etc.. This taught them how how computer programs worked. Once they ran the the commands once, they would navigate Aydin back through the course to "test" the program, and then they "edited" the errors out to make it faster, and "tested" it again, etc... Basically everything a programmer does with a keyboard and a debugger. It was really cool how he approached the talk and all the kids in the class had a blast!

Rails A to Z - Matt Yoho
After that session I attended Rails A to Z by Matt Yoho (from EdgeCase). I learned quite a bit at this session and was amazed at how little code is required to make a Rails app. With about 10 lines of Ruby code, a user can connect to a database (build its schema), add records, and then disconnect (and destroy the table). This would take about 50 - 100 lines of c# code. Wow! Matt did a great job and he had my undivided attention for the entire hour.

WebMatrix 1.0 Product Launch - Josh Holmes
For lunch, we got to see WebMatrix 1.0 be launched to the world along with a lot of other amazing technologies (details). Codemash ain't no joke no more. This event has had all kinds of top notch speakers, and this year Microsoft had live streaming video from the conference to developers all over the world about this long awaited product launch. Congratulations to Codemash organizers for outdoing themselves each year. See Scott Guthrie's blog post for a list of everything that was announced today.

After the keynote, I skipped the next sessions, as there was nothing being presented that sparked my interest. I used this time to get in a quick run and workout in before the rest of the evening got ahead of me. I actually met a guy in the gym (ironically named Jim), who is close friends Mark Goodale (a local ultra-marathon hero). What a small world! We talked for about 30 minutes while we ran on treadmills next to each other.

Top Ten Tips for Moving from WinForms to WPF - Michael EatonThis session was pretty informative. Michael broke down all the differences between WinForms and WPF. I actually dabbled in WPF for a few weeks last month and got so frustrated with it. It was such a paradigm shift from everything I'd ever learned about windows application development. Buttons with click events and coordinates get's thrown out the window. Now developers use DataBinding to UIElements on various types of LayoutPanels through MVVM... Yeah!? Anyway, Michael's session confirmed that it wasn't just me. :) He gave some tips and suggested some 3rd party tools to help ease the pains. Great talk!

A Modern Open Source Development Environment - Gary BernhardtThis session was one that I was REALLY looking forward to even days before the conference. Gary uses terminal app and Vi as his development environment. This is what would eventually like to do as well so that I don't rely so much on VS2010.

Unfortunately the session was more about him showcasing how fast he types and navigates through different commands inside terminal. He didn't really focus on useful tips for users to do the same. It kind of turned into a "look what I can do" session, as opposed to a "here's how I do it" session. Don't get me wrong, I did learn something; I learned that I need to just bite the bullet and use vi exclusively outside of my day job. All in all, nothing very "constructive" came from this session (for me). He moved too fast, and assumed everybody in the session was familiar with Vi, Pyton, shell scripting, Git, and zsh.

He did answer a lot of questions about how he got so fast, but again he didn't explain anything with hard examples. It was mostly just pre-recorded videos of him typing in vi while he commented about his typos in real time, and then summed up the video with a benchmark. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be... :( I'm still a Gary fan though, and will continue to follow his blog:

Ford Fusion Keynote - Tj GiulliFor dinner, we all got to hear a developer from Ford talk about some of the new technologies that they are putting in cars, and it was pretty cool. Tj showed some of the new GUI's for the upcoming nav screens. He showed how traveling with a group of other drivers can be more "interactive" in that each car can talk to one another to know how low they are on fuel. Lots of other cool stuff was in here too, where the car could actually tweet it's status at any point along the route (ie. "Pulled into Taco Bell" or "I need fuel soon"). Pretty cool stuff really. Best yet, there was an API that was available to allow developers to tap into the engine and interface with it. However, I must admit that the API was a bit kludgy with their use of multiple yield keywords inside of a single void method. (?)

Cocktail Party, Jam Session, & Water Park Party
This is where it got fun! We all got to loosen up and mingle for the rest of the night. My good buddy, Greg Malcolm helped me setup my drums this year for the jam session. We had quite a turn out this year. Best of all Chris Castle and The Womack Family Band came back to the Kalahari to jam with us. They brought their gear back with them too. Of course, Carl was there and he's always a great entertainer. Again, we had quite a little crowd gathered up at a few points. There are a few videos on YouTube that showcase some of the shenanigans. :)

After the Jam session, Jennifer came to retrieve me so that we could all go to the water park and swim. The girls were so excited that I got to go with them and we had a blast!! We played water basketball, we hung out in the wave pool, and just relaxed and had a great time. After the water park, we split out separate ways and I went back to the grand hall to gather my drumset. As it turned out, I sat down and talked with Carl and Richard for a while on a couch and then we all headed back to the water park to mingle with other devs and get some drinks. There I met Justin Etheredge, and we talked for about 30 minutes about Ruby on Rails, and various javascript utilities that we used.

I didn't get back to the room til about 1 am.

Developing High Performance Web Applications with Javascript - Timothy FisherWell... I wanted to go to this, but couldn't. :( I slept in and rushed down to the breakfast area with moments to spare, then had to turn around and head back up to the room to get it back in order. Checkout was at 11 am and there was a LOT to do. Jennifer and I got it all done around 10:45 am. I kissed them all good bye and headed back down to the sessions... Jennifer was going to get some candy from the candy hut and then make the drive back home.

Rules for Good UX Design - Joe NuxollThis was a great session. Joe is an old Borland, turned Apple developer who now does other things I guess (?). Anyway, he had lots of useful information on what NOT to do with user interfaces (avoid "assy-ness"). :) He showed me some old user interfaces that mimicked some dialogs that I once (or twice) built that make end users cringe. He also showcased many user interfaces that were simply beautiful, and that hid a LOT of underlying complexity. This guy clearly knows his stuff and everybody in his session learned quite a bit about good UI design.

GitHub Keynote - Scott ChaconThe lunch keynote on Friday was pretty interesting. A developer from came to keynote about how they run their business. Basically, there is ZERO business processes or management structure across the entire company. Clearly it's working for them, but it has disaster written all over it in my eyes. From what he explains, people just kind of do whatever they want, whenever they want and for whatever reason. It's a very "open source" environment and sounds rather risky to me...

Everybody in the company has full trust of the entire enterprise. Everybody has the ability and permissions to do whatever they want. This means that anybody at (from the new guy to the CEO) could delete the entire site if they wanted to. Of course, this would never happen (or should never happen anyway), but the fact that there are no checks in place to prevent such a disaster seems a little haphazard to me. Scott indicates that everybody at GitHub gets the same pay. There are no vacations; you can just do what you want, whenever you want. No meetings, no deadlines, no feature list, no time frames, no nothing... It's amazing to me that they've had no problems yet. Good for them, but I (personally) like having a little bit of structure and credibility for my actions. Perhaps I'd feel different if I was put in this environment and saw it work. To me it seems a little chaotic and unpredictable.

How? It's because each employee is passionate about what they're doing.

Infinitely Extensible - Alex PapadimoulisThis was a great session. I follow Alex's blog (ie. The Daily WTF) and knew that this guy has seen it all. People send him code snippets from some of the most crazy logic puzzles. Many are just bad programming, but some are really funny dialog prompts that developers thing users would never see. Check out his blog to see what I mean. :)

Anyway, the session talked about how to keep it simple and avoid over-engineering simple problems. We as programmers do this by default; we over complicate everything and try to prepare for future enhancements that may never see the light of day. I really enjoyed his talk because it showed me things to look for when I sit down and start over engineering simple problems.

Anatomy of an E-Commerce Website - Joe WirtleyI was pretty excited about this session too. Joe is a really nice guy that I run into quite often around various events throughout the heartland area. His session was great and he basically just described how an international e-commerce site is setup to deliver real time results using caching and highly optimized data services across multiple databases. I learned quite a bit before I had to sneak out of his session...

Node.js - Open SpaceUnfortunately I had to sneak out of Joe's session because I was really interested in learning about node.js. It was an open space idea that somebody posted on the board and I wanted to see what it was all about. As it turned out, I got there way too late and didn't really get anything out of it. :(

Awards and Wrap-upAnother year passes, and I don't win a damn thing. GRR!! I guess I'll just have to come back next year and try again. :)

I'm now extremely excited about Ruby, Rails, Git, Shell scripting, Vi, and all things Unix. I plan to consume myself with knowledge of everything Ruby until I'm comfortable with all that it has to offer. While learning Ruby, I'll need to learn terminal app and vi pretty extensively. But that goes with the territory and hopefully I'll "get it" so that it can just get out of my way and I can focus on being productive on my Mac.

This all starts now!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CodeMash v2.0.1.1 (Pre-Compiler)

The time has arrived! I'm here at CodeMash and loving all the stuff that I'm learning so far!

I arrived yesterday around 1pm. When I arrived, I ended up geeking out in my room for a while, learning KnockoutJS. KnockoutJS is a very slick little javascript library that allows developers to integrate the MVVM architecture pattern into an Html page fairly easily. Anybody that is familiar with Silverlight or WPF will have no problem using it. However, for me it has been quite a learning curve since I'm not fluent in either. I've only been using the MVVM pattern (in my head) over the last month or two. I've never actually applied it until now.

Around 4pm, I headed down to the conference area and helped stuff the shwag bags with many other volunteers. They setup all the fliers and pamphlets on a table, and about 10 of us made a loop where we would walk around the table and grab one sheet at a time... At the end of the table, we would put the papers into a bag and start all over. I hung out in there for about an hour and a half before sneaking out the door.

After volunteering at the table, I got checked into the conference, then walked around the Kalahari for a while. While walking around, I actually ran into Carl Franklin from .NET Rocks. I stopped and talked to him for a little while, and was pretty surprised that he remembered me. After that, I went to the water park area and sent some water park pictures to my girls via Picture Mail.

Then around 7pm, I headed down to the gym to get my sweat on. I met a few guys (Chad and Bob) who were doing the P90X. They were on their 3rd month of the program and stated that they have noticed great results as well. We talked off and on for a while, then I headed back up to my room to get a shower before going down to the bar to "network" with some other geeks.

As it turned out, I actually ran into Chad and Bob again. We talked for quite a while, and then along came Greg Malcolm. Greg and I sat and talked and drank til about midnight. We talked about all things geeky, including Ruby, Rails, Javascript, Perl, Python, C#, ASP.NET, Git, SVN, and I think Scala actually came up once or twice. Around midnight, we both had our buzz on, so we went our separate ways to prepare for the big Pre-Compiler day.

Whoops, I slept in a little. I had my alarm set for 5:30 am with hopes on getting a quick run in before breakfast. Instead, I woke up at 8:15. :) I scurried around and got ready to try and get a bit of breakfast before they took it away (@ 8:30). I made it! Barely, but I made it.

From breakfast, I went to the Ruby Koans lab hosted by Joe O'Brien and Marc Peabody of EdgeCase. I learned so much!! I basically learned that Ruby is the shit (this is a compliment for all my non-English speaking readers). I dabbled in the Ruby Koans last year at CodeMash, from a friendly tip. However, this year I dedicated myself to a full 3 hours of NOTHING BUT RUBY! Again, I can't say enough about Ruby. Joe and Marc are very passionate about the language and they are really good at getting people excited about the language and developer culture. I've already committed to attending the Columbus Ruby Brigade meeting on Monday. I made it through about 80 of the 274 Koans, and plan to finish them before Monday's meeting.

I had some great conversation with some smart people at my lunch table around Silverlight and WPF. Then from lunch, I decided to attend the Git Immersion presentation by Adam McCrea and Jim Weirich (also from EdgeCase). They did a great job explaining how Git is different from SVN and how it is an invaluable tool for all developers. Jim presented the Git system in such a way that made it easy to understand. I have it installed and will be using it quite often from now on.

The best part about both sessions today was that I got to use my crazy cool Bash and Unix knowledge in both sessions. Both sessions were 100% command line driven via Terminal.

Yeah, I'm having fun!