Arcane Fun Fridays–More Music to Code By

Last week I listed a few of my favorite soundtracks to program to. This week I’d like to present a few more. These aren’t soundtracks exactly, but sure do sound like them. Very fast paced, orchestral pieces that sound like they were taken right from an action/adventure movie.

Unlike some movie soundtracks, which have a mix of both fast paced and slower interlude style music, there’s not a slow song in the bunch. Every track is fast paced adrenaline pumping code inducing music.

It’s not a single album but a series, called “Position Music”. Right now I have Volumes 1-4, there’s a fifth one of Christmas music that’s on my wish list, it’s totally unlike any holiday album you ever listened to. So without further comment here’s the list, hope you enjoy as much as I do!

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 1

 

 

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 2

 

 

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 3

 

 

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer – While I’m working on some self published Kindle books, I have no affiliation with them when it comes to music, feel free to purchase where you will.

Posted in Fun. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

The Arcane Code Dungeon

I’ve been playing around with my new Flip camera, and and created a video that I uploaded to YouTube. A while back I saw someone from Microsoft show off his office environment so I thought you might enjoy seeing where the Arcane Coder spends a lot of his time.

Enjoy!

Scott Hanselman Takes Over MSN

Yesterday I was browsing around on the web, including a visit to Scott Hanselmans site to read an article on his blog. A little later I rebooted my Windows 7 machine and went to bed. The next day I open up Internet Explorer to do something. In the Windows 7 beta the default homepage for IE is MSN. Imagine my surprise then when I see this:

MSNHanselman

Yes, you are seeing right. The MSN Logo was replaced by Scott Hanselman’s. From this I can only assume that Scott’s plans to become the benevolent overlord of Microsoft are proceeding well, and that he has successfully taken over the MSN division. I imagine it won’t be long then before Baby Smash becomes the primary IDE for developing C# applications.

BSDA – BUG.NET Christmas Party

It’s party time! The Birmingham Software Developers Association and the Birmingham .Net Users Group are joining forces to throw a holiday blast. The event will take place Tuesday, December 2nd 6:00 pm at Richard’s BBQ and Grill on Acton Road, just off Interstate 459. This is a family friendly event, spouses and children are encouraged to attend. We promise to keep the geek talk to a minimum.

The clubs want to extend an invitation to all user groups in the Birmingham community. No matter what your group we’d like to extend a special invite to all to attend. Rumor has it there will be some swell door prizes and swag to give away.

Please be aware the event is BYOW! Bring Your Own Wallet. Each family will be responsible for it’s own bill. Not to worry though, Richard’s rates are very reasonable, and they have a wide variety of food to pick from. In addition to BBQ they have a nice meat and three selection, and some of the best burgers you ever put in your mouth.

Please RSVP to altechevents@gmail.com by close of business Monday, November 30th with how many will be attending so we can give the restaurant a semi-accurate count. Look forward to seeing you all then!

Gentleman, JumpstartTV Your Engines

Thought I’d spread a little link love today, and to start with I will point you to the http://jumpstarttv.com website. JumpstartTV hosts short training videos with one very specific, focused topic per video. When I say short, I mean short. Three to five minutes is the goal for each video. I was honored recently when asked to participate in the site, and have created a series for them on SQL Server Full Text Searching. The first video on installing was featured yesterday, but you don’t have to wait for the videos to be featured, you can see all of them by jumping to my JumpstartTV profile.

One thing to note, you will be asked to create an online profile. This is free, and it turns out very useful. You can use it to track all of the videos you watched. This makes it very convenient to come back later and refresh yourself on something you learned. In addition, the site has a “watch it later” feature. You can go all over the site picking out videos you think would be interesting and clicking the “watch it later” link. Then when you go to your profile, you’ll be able watch the selected videos one after the other. JumpstartTV has videos on both SQL Server and .Net, as well as some interesting ones in the “Misc” category, including bartending, self defense, and more.

The second link for the day is an interesting article on the simple-talk website, “Taking Back Control of your IT Career”. It was written by a friend of mine, Stephan Onisick and chronicles his ordeal of getting laid off from his company of seven years, through a period of retraing himself and ultimately landing a new job that met the needs he set out. Even if your company is nice and stable, you will find good advice for keeping your skills up in this article. Disclaimer, he does mention a presentation I did in the article, but in spite of that it’s still a good read. ;-)

Next is a new SQL Server resource brought to us by the fine folks at Quest Software, it’s the new SQLServerPedia. The site is both a wiki and a series of podcast like videos you can subscribe to from your Zune or other music player. I have my Zune setup to automagically download new episodes as they come out. I believe it was @BrentO himself who clued me in on the site.

I’ve written in the past about CodeRush, the tool I refuse to code without. Well the wonderful folks at Devexpress have created a free version called CodeRush Xpress for Visual Studio. Now if you need to code on a budget, you can still enjoy CodeRushy goodness in your 2008 IDE! And it’s not even Christmas yet!

Many of you follow me on Twitter, if you don’t I’d love to invite you, I”m on as @arcanecode . Guy Kawasaki has a great article on How To Pick Up Followers on Twitter. Good article that shows some of the strengths of Twitter, and how to use them to everyone’s advantage.

Speaking of Twitter, thanks to @theronkelso I found a new service called TweetLater. This service lets you schedule a tweet to be delivered to Twitter at a later time. For example, I would like to be able to tweet that our BSDA meeting is about to begin. But as the current President I’m usually up front introducing the guest speaker, and thus not at a keyboard. TweetLater to the rescue, I can set it to auto post the meeting is starting and be in two places at once.

It’s also great as a reminder tool, I can queue up meeting reminder tweets for the entire year ahead of time and forget all about it. Another feature, you can set it to auto reply with a message to new followers, and it can even be setup to automatically follow anyone who is following you. I believe this is a resource I’ll be using a lot.

The next to final link is a reminder really, to the Alabama Tech Events site. This is a community site for posting technical events of interest to folks in the state of Alabama. Please note that the event doesn’t have to be in Alabama, just of reasonable interest to folks in the state. We’ve posted events in Tennesee, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia. If you have a technical event contact me or one of the other user group leaders to get it added.

I’ll wrap up today’s link lovefest with the site analogous to the Alabama Tech Event site, but for the entire country: Community Megaphone. This site lists events from all over the United States. You can filter by state or event type.

Happy Halloween

Many of you who follow me on Twitter have wondered about the rather strange photo I’ve had on my Twitter account this month. I promised to fill in everyone, so here it is, my way of saying Happy Halloween!

Several years ago at work we had a dress up day. I went all out, and got into Zombie mode. Which really wasn’t al that difficult, as most days we all sort of stagger around the office moaning “brains, brains, need brains”, at least until after that first pot of coffee.

So without further ado, here are some pics you can use to scare your coworkers. Just imagine their delight when they open up an e-mal with my lovely visage on it! (Note you can click on any photo to see it in full size.)

Zombie001

I can just hear it now. “This is Thriller, thrill of the night… “

 

Zombie002

Everybody boogie down!

 

Zombie003

Brains… want brains… with a side order of hash browns, biscuits, and a pumpkin spice chai tea latte

 

Zombie004

BOO!

 

Zombie005

For some reason I’ve got a headache. Wonder why?

 

Zombie006

I know, I should really cut down on the in-between meal snacks.

 

Zombie007

They gave me a prize for best costume. I didn’t have the heart to tell them this is how I normally

look until I’ve consumed a few pots of coffee!

 

 

 

Happy Halloween Everyone

    

from

 

The Arcane Coder!

   

   

Posted in Fun. 2 Comments »

October Open Spaces at BSDA

Come join us in October for a very special Birmingham Software Developers Association meeting. We will be having a Open Spaces session, to expose members and visitors to the concept. In Open Spaces, participants place topics for discussion on the board, then the group votes on the topics they’d like to discuss. A moderator moves the discussion along, and when the topic is worked out moves onto the next topic.

Some possible topics might include open source software, imperative versus declarative languages, and more. Any topic is open for debate and discussion, so please come prepared to discuss!

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday October 9th at the New Horizons Training Center in Homewood, AL. Everyone is welcome.

LifeCam VX-5000

livecamvx5000 I decided to extend my web presence by getting a web camera. This will add to what I can post, plus let me start doing more video conferencing using tools like Live Messenger and Skype. After looking I decided on the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000. I’ve only had it a few days but I have been really impressed. It does really great at very low light. It also has a built in microphone, so for travel I don’t have to lug around a separate headset or microphone to use with it.

So far I have tested with both Windows Live Messenger and Skype, and had no issues. I’m looking forward to doing some more experiments, and seeing what else I can do with it. I might try some vidoes on 12seconds.tv (if I can get in), or try using with with Camtasia.

I selected the VX-5000 for several reasons.

  1. The size. It’s quite small, for someone who moves around it’s nice and compact, doesn’t take up a lot of space in my backpack.
  2. Low light. I read it did well in low light, that was an understatement. This thing is great even in very dim light.
  3. Built in mic. As I mentioned, it has a built in mic, so I don’t have to use an external one (although I can). That’s great in travel situations where space is at a premium in my already over stuffed backpack.
  4. Price. This was less than 40 bucks, so it was a really good deal.

Well, don’t want to come off like an advertisement, I just had a cool new geek toy and thought I’d share. Hope to have some videos up in the future as I work with the product and learn it’s ins and outs.

Arcane Fun Fridays – There be Pirates!

Avast ye mateys, hoist the missen mast and scrub the poop deck, it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day! Blogs all over the web be pirateized. So hoist the jolly roger, we be sailin’ for trouble. And beware, if I catch ya slippin ye may be walkin the plank!

Now where’d I leave that peg leg?

Posted in Fun. 1 Comment »

Ted Neward goes well with cheesy stuffed burritos

I had quite the adventure last week getting to DevLink. Enroute Thursday night part of the electrical system in my old pickup decided to implode, leaving me stranded on the side of the interstate. I got it towed and had to wait for a friend to come get me (thanks Ben!). The closest place to wait was the Mexican Phone Company (aka Taco Bell). I claimed the booth with the wall outlet, setup my laptop, and settled in for 3 hours of waiting. Naturally there was no wi-fi to be found.

Always looking for opportunities to be productive, I worked on editing a Camtasia video I had recorded recently at a Bug.Net meeting. After a bit I decided to take a break and eat. While munching on a cheesy stuffed burrito I watched some videos I had downloaded from the InformIT site. In the first video Ted Neward talked about functional coding and touches on F#, in the second he dives deeper into F#. Once the videos and my cheesy stuffed burritos were done I returned to editing.

So the next day I got my wife’s van out of the shop (transmission had gone out leaving CodeStock – these conferences are getting expensive!) hopped in and took off once again for DevLink, this time making it just in time to see the last session of the day – none other than a presentation by Ted Neward and Amanda Laucher on F#. And I’ll be dog gone if Ted wasn’t wearing the exact same t-shirt he had one while filming the videos I’d watched. Made the experience that much more surreal. Either that or the cheesy stuffed burritos were haunting me, one of the two.

I did at least get one whole day in at DevLink, still well worth going to. And I’m not just saying that because I won a copy of Vista Ultimate and Master Chiefs decapitated head. Oh and if you are looking to learn a little more on F#, Ted’s got a great article in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of Code Magazine called F# 101. Good reading.

All in all, despite the vehicular issues DevLink was still a good value and I plan to make it an annual trip.

CodeStock

I was at CodeStock in Knoxville over this previous weekend. Great conference. It was run very well, everything went quite smoothly. I attended some really great sessions, and got to meet a ton of great folks.

The twitter get together the night before at the hotel was awesome. It was sort of weird, a lot of the folks I have known on twitter for several months now, but this was the first time we got to meet face to face. As I told my wife, “I got to see a lot of old friends for the very first time and catch up on old times.” We got into some really interesting discussions on development topics, user group activities, and just had a lot of fun in general.

I attended a lot of good sessions during the day, but want to point out a few in particular. The first was put on by Amanda Launcher and Joe O’Brien. They talked about alternative languages such as Ruby and F#, and why learning them was important. They pointed out that alternative languages help you think about different approaches to problem solving. Gave us a lot to think about, and has me eager to dive into those F# books I bought.

The other  two sessions were on LINQ. Joe Kunk did a LINQ to SQL session. His stated goal was to give us enough info to return to the office and write our first LINQ app. This combined with Jim Wooley’s session on LINQ Migration Strategies did just that, I sat down Sunday and, I admit with the help of a few books, in a few hours had written my first LINQ code to talk to SQL Server Compact Edition.

I thought CodeStock was a great investment of my time, and am looking forward to returning next year.

SQL Heroes and Data Dudes

In case you are wondering where I’ve been lately, it’s been a combination of issues at work plus putting the final nails in the schedule for TechMixer University. It’s been a big team effort, and as chair of the education committee I’ve had some great help gathering speakers for the event. We just published the first round of speakers and tracks so be sure to go take a look. And if you haven’t signed up yet, you better hurry registration is rapidly filling up!

On the interesting SQL News front, thanks to Jason over at StatisticsIO I just found out about the SQL Heroes site.  They are having a contest for the best SQL Server 2008 community project submitted to CodePlex. Here’s a listing of the current SQL projects currently there. Looks like some useful utilities, and the contest still has a month left in it so plenty of time to assemble your own project and submit to the contest.

I recently began diving deeper into Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition (aka “Data Dude”) and wanted to learn more about it. Fellow SQL MVP Andy Leonard has come out with a new book, the first in a series on the subject. Volume 1, available from Solid Quality Mentors, takes you from the basics of creating your first database project, into versioning your database and scripts, right into building and deploying. There’s also some interesting and useful material in the appendixes, including installation of data dude and importing a database schema. I was also interested in getting a peak at his development environment. And at a mere 15 dollars I thought it was a bargain.

Arcane Fun Fridays – Game Review – Tiger Woods PGA Golf 2007

As some of my readers are aware, I recently won an XBox 360 Elite. Naturally I’ve started collecting a few games for it, being thrifty though have picked up some of my titles used. I thought it’d be fun to post a few game reviews.

Way back when, I used to really enjoy golf games on my Amiga and old 286 era PC. (Yeah, I know, I’m a wild man.) So one of the first things I picked up was last years Tiger Woods golf game.

The game adds in little character plays between shots, showing players doing various things. This is cute the first few times, but after a bit gets a little slow, there are times when I wish I could press a button to skip over these little plays and just take my shot.

In addition, some of the little plays show what I consider to be bad sportsman like conduct. For some rougher games like football or soccer this might be more common, but I’ve always thought golf to be more of a gentleman’s game. Perhaps I sound like an “old fuddy duddy” but I didn’t care much for the scenes of a player snapping his club over his knee or throwing a club across the field. I’d hate for non golfers to think this is the way Tiger or any of the other Pro’s really act on the golf course.

On the good side, game play is challenging, smooth, and fun. I’ve really enjoyed it as I’ve begun working my way through the Tiger Woods Challenge play. And the training system is one of the best I’ve ever seen in any game, any time. It takes you step by step through each component of play, and lets you practice it. Very through and comprehensive.

Overall I give Tiger Woods PGA Golf 2007 eight out of ten on the Arcane scale of fun.

Update:I played some more over the weekend, and found that in many scenes pressing the Green “A” button allowed you to skip over the scene. Really helped to speed up play. Note that not every scene has this, but give it a try and you’ll start getting a feel for which ones do and don’t.

Getting Tagged by the Software Developer Meme

There’s a “meme” going around the net. A meme, for those unfamiliar, is defined as a unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one person to another. On the web, a meme is a theme, usually a series of questions that get passed from one person to another. After one person answers, he tags one or more other folks. Well, I got tagged!

StatisticsIO, better known as Jason Massie, got me. To keep his link chain alive, this has now gone from: Denis Gobo > Andy Leonard > Frank La Vigne > Peter Brown > Chad Campbell > Dan Rigsby > Michael Eaton > Sarah Dutkiewicz > Jeff Blankenburg > Josh Holmes > Larry Clarkin > Jason Massie > Me! So without further ado…

How old were you when you first started programming?

12 or 13, it was on a TRS-80 Model 1.

How did you get started in programming?

My dad had written a Star Wars game programming in Basic on the TRS-80. I hacked it so I could beat my sister most of the time, and the rest was history.

What was your first language?

BASIC, of course.

What was the first real program you wrote?

As I recall, it was a character generator for Dungeons and Dragons back on the TRS-80. Involved a lot of random number generation and printing.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

In no particular order: BASIC, Pascal, Quick Basic, Visual Basic, COBOL, C, C++, C#, Delphi, Fortran, dBase, FoxPro, RPG III, a little assembler, probably some more I can’t recall. Working on learning Powershell and F# now.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I guess it depends. A friend of mine and I co-wrote an inventory system for someone who wanted to start a company. It was written using compiled BASIC 1.0, and the software and DOS had to fit on one floppy disk, then the inventory for the store had to fit on a second floppy. Unfortunately they went under before we could get paid. I then went on to write a dBase II system for a lawyer to organize some charity or other, that was the first system I actually got paid for.

If you knew then what you knew now, would you have started programming / DBAing?

Oh yes, love it! There’s something rather intoxicating about making the computer sing and dance to your whim.

If there one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Can’t decide on one, so there are two things I’d share. First, as much fun as coding is, never forget you are there to solve a problem. Ultimately it’s not about you but about the user experience. Don’t be afraid to subjugate your ego to the success of the project, ultimately it’ll pay.

Second, take time for the peripheral skills. Communications, business, etc. These will make you far more valuable as a professional developer than technical skills alone.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?

Hmm, tough call. Believe it or not I used to work for a prophylactic factory. It was a lot of fun coding the interfaces between the machine that printed the serial number on each one, and the production database.

Either that or right after we got married I spent close to two years working from home. My wife would sometimes sit in my lap and snuggle up while I was able to reach around her and keep coding. Distracting perhaps, but the question was about fun not productivity!

Who are you calling out?

Hmm, let’s see, that’s a tough one since this meme’s been around a while. Let’s annoy…

MaggiePlusPlus

Rachel Appel

Amanda Launcher (AKA Pandamonial)

Jeff Barnes

Keith Elder

Chris Woodruff

Glen Gordon

Shawn Wildermuth

Michael Neel (ViNull)

Dougal Campbell

Paul Waters

Wow, looks like there are still some victims developers left after all…

Productivity and Toilet Seats

Recently I bought a new toilet seat. It’s freed up my time to do more productive things. Now, before you hit the speed dial to have the old Arcane Coder hauled off in a pretty white jacket with straps and shiny buckles on the back, bear with me.

You average toilet seat takes about 4 seconds to put down, assuming you do it gently and don’t slam it. I recently spent a few extra dollars to get a spring loaded toilet seat. All I have to do is nudge it and it gently lowers itself to the lowered position. 1 second of my time to nudge, versus 4 seconds. Not to get too personal, but we’ll say I need to lower the seat 4 times a day on average. That means I’ve saved 12 seconds a day. Doesn’t sound like much, but count that up over a year, it winds up saving me 73 minutes a year. What can I do with that 73 minutes a year I’m not spending on doing something as mundane as lowering toilet seat? Play XBox with my kids, read a book, listen to a podcast, or even write blog posts.

I’m always looking for ways to save time, as time is the one thing we all have the same amount of. Do you have a laptop you regularly take between home and work? Get a second power supply and mouse, leave one at home and one at work. You save a lot of time and effort by just unhooking your laptop and dropping it in your bag versus having to fiddle with all the cords, plugging and unplugging.

My Zune is another productivity gadget. Using it I can keep up my education via podcasts while doing things like driving, cutting the grass, or even shopping. Likewise my PDA keeps a lot of information at my fingertips, which saves me from running back and forth to my PC several times a day.

Time is the one equalizer, the one thing we all have the same amount of. In my mind then, any sort of gadget which gives us back time to do other things is a worthwhile investment.

So what kind of tools do you use to gain productive time in your life?

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