Category Archives: Fun

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.

Advertisements

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…