Upgrades and Maintenance

So, September seems to be the month of upgrades for me. The more significant upgrade is probably the installation of a brand new gas stove after suffering 12 years of a dinky electric stove. Suffice to say, I am in love.

Professionally, I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my laptop to Windows 10. I’d resisted an upgrade for a long time because I REALLY liked Windows 7, and had heard various horror stories about Windows 8. However, having decided that it was time to catch up to Microsoft (and having backed up all of the significant files on my laptop like a champ), I decided the time had come.

I was a little nervous (and still am) because the last time I upgraded the OS of a laptop, I didn’t do a proper job of checking the effects of the upgrade on the system, and consequently, it fried the motherboard. (or at least the video card, but same diff since it was integrated, and I couldn’t do much without a screen)

So, last night, while (sort of) watching Heroes Reborn and Fear the Walking Dead, I ran the upgrade. The mention of the aforementioned shows should give you an idea of how long it took. Yes, the better part of 2 1/2-3 hours.

I didn’t have much time to do anything with it once the upgrade was complete, but the initial thing I noticed is that my laptop didn’t seem to be running any hotter than usual. I’d read that this had been happening with other machines doing a similar upgrade.

Now, even though it seems to have taken the upgrade in stride (hopefully, my tactic of buying a higher end model when I picked up this computer 4 years ago made it more resilient to upgrades), I will be uninstalling a lot of bloat ware that I’ve been wanting to get rid of anyway. Since I probably won’t get to do it until after I get back from Visual Studio Live in New York, I’ll document what I get rid of in a future post.

As for Visual Studio Live, I leave for that on Sunday. I won’t be bringing the upgraded laptop, but rather my work laptop which is still Windows 7. It should work fine since most of my sessions will focus on Azure. I figure that any goodies I pick up that will be relevant to Windows 10 will largely be reserved for personal projects rather than work projects.

In other news, I’m running again, after a summer full of fits and starts. The solution? Cooler weather and lower humidity.

Travel and Recent Reading

In September of this year, I will be attending Visual Studio Live for the first time in about 6 years. It’s been 5 years since my last conference, so I’m both exhilarated and a bit daunted. Exhilarated because, well, conference in New York? Score! Daunted because I haven’t been very active in the Microsoft coding community in a long time. I read blogs and sometimes offer suggestions to people struggling with problems that I myself have had, but for the most part, I’ve been basically the worker bee who goes home and then doesn’t really look at code again until the next morning.

I’ve resolved that I will be more code-active outside of the office this Fall, and be more interactive with my developer colleagues outside of work. I think I’ve tended to shy away from this in the past because when I read coding blogs, they tend to make me feel behind the curve. I think this is ever the struggle of the developer because once one learns the latest developments of the environment in which one is working, the next iteration is being deployed it seems. Nonetheless, my philosophy is that one can only start from where one is. There is, indeed, a lot I still have to learn. There always will be. There is also a lot that I do know that I can share with others. I may not publish cutting edge code examples here, but I know I can publish things that work to specifications, even if those examples are quite simple at first.

In other news, I recently read Steve Jobs biography. I may go into more detail about my impressions of it in later posts, but the one thing that stuck with me was his obsession with the integration of design and engineering as well as the integration of software and hardware.

In the case of the design and engineering, I relate to this concept because I know that when I write well written, well structured code, I actually find it aesthetically pleasing. This may just relate to me alone, but when a program block is well formatted, well documented, and well designed, it is a thing of beauty to me. Much in the way that Steve obsessed over things that no one would ever see (such as the material of the inside of a computer case or the arrangement of chips on a motherboard), I tend to go over my code and look for ways to make it both efficient and pleasantly readable. The more appealing it looks in my IDE, the easier I find it is to maintain. In contrast, when I’m asked to look at code that someone else wrote that isn’t working, I often find myself having an almost visceral reaction if what I’m looking at is spaghetti code (and it often is).

As for Apples standard of closely integrated hardware and software, the benefits are obvious. Their machines are fast as hell and work really well. The drawbacks are equally obvious: You can’t upgrade them at all. I go back and forth on this. On the one hand, I love working on my MacBook Pro because it’s fast as hell and doesn’t break down. My Lenovo, by contrast, is clunky, not because it’s a bad machine, but because it’s about 4 years old, and has software less closely integrated with its software. That said, my Lenovo has a distinct advantage: it can be upgraded. I can put in more RAM, a new hard drive, etc. True, there are limits to how much I can upgrade any laptop, but at least I can do this. Moreover, in the case of PCs, I can build a Linux or Windows box from scratch. I can’t really do this with a Mac. Even though there is theoretically a way to build a “Hackintosh”, apart from worrying that the vengeful ghost of Steve Jobs will come and haunt me for blasphemy, I am just dubious that such a machine would be as good as the real thing. Plus, if you can build a Linux box, why would you need to try to hack together a Mac compatible PC?

My solution is, of course, to own one of each:  I use my MacBook pretty regularly at home since I use a PC at work, but I also am well aware that I need to do some maintenance on my Lenovo, particularly since I’ll want it when I go to New York.

So, that’s two posts in one year.  I guess I’m on a roll.


So, neglecting this blog yet again, and thus more or less defining it’s entire existence as one of neglect, I am once again returning to it.

In doing so, I ask myself, why have I been so rotten at updating this blog? What is my problem, in short?

The answer is simple: I’ve been unfocused in my non-working hours.

This is, in part, a result of my work environment at home. Basically I’ve not really had a consistent one. My den became, well, sort of a pile of stuff with a door on it. This weekend, (well, today) has been devoted to reversing this trend and getting rid of the extraneous things in my work area that make it an unfocused environment.

This is a good beginning, but even when the task of decluttering is complete (and it has a way to go), there is the question of what to do with the space that remains. My experience is that when you create a hole in your life, something is going to fill it. If you don’t consciously choose what will fill it, then it will fill itself with whatever is familiar to that environment. In other words, simply removing clutter from a room is not enough unless you do something with the space you create that will help prevent the recurrence of clutter.

So, the plan is to do the following:

  • Finish the process of decluttering the workspace by remaining anything that either serves no purpose or has no value.
  • Take what remains and organize it into logical collections, whether that be papers, devices, tools, etc.
  • Look at solutions for organizing what remains and find the one that is conducive to focus.
  • Implement the above solutions as inexpensively as possible.

As I work better when I document my work, I will use this space for documenting my progress.  This will not, however, be the only use for this blog.  I have a project in mind, and I plan to execute said project either here, or on a blog connected to this one.  It probably will not commence until the Fall, after I’ve had the opportunity to do some requisite research into the feasibility and scope of the project, but for now, I’m reasonably confident that it is a doable and worthwhile project.  More to come on that soon.

So, I am back, hopefully to stay this time.  Maybe someone will actually even want to read this thing.


Bits of Stuff

As I just signed an online petition and attached this domain to my signature, it occurred to me that I haven’t written anything since last October.

First things first:  The petition/manifesto/whatever you want to call it is here:  http://firstthingsfirst2014.org/.  (See what I did there?)  Unfortunately, the summit that is mentioned on the page has already passed, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading the manifesto, signing it, and joining the effort to promote, support, build, etc. indie tech.

Now, onto the rest of the blog post.

I haven’t really been good about posting here, largely because I tend to over-think my ideas when I’m not really writing about a given subject or to a specific audience.  It’s not that there aren’t subjects I consider worth writing about, it’s just that a lot of the things that tend to come to mind either have already been written about ad-nauseam by people who seem much more knowledgeable than myself on said subject, or I realize that the subject doesn’t interest me as much once I start to research it as it did when I first got the idea to write about it.

Anyway, as a friend of mine pointed out, fretting about what you’re going to write is a guarantee that you won’t write anything.

OK, so this won’t be anything too structured or particularly insightful.

I wasn’t very productive this weekend as I was engaged in 4th of July related activities.  This means that the weekend also wasn’t particularly healthy, but it was enjoyable to be sure, and I’m back to being healthy this week, so it’s all a win.

I’m getting back into reading the Pragmatic Programmer.  I’ve started this book a couple of times and allowed myself to get distracted away from it.  Hence, I’ve made a firm commitment to finish it completely this time, rather than what I’ve been doing which is jumping from one section to the other and reading things that are of interest to me at the time.  Granted, I think the book does lend itself to doing that, and I’ve gained a lot of very good insight from what I have read, but being an ENTJ, I require completion.  I need to read this book start to finish or I won’t feel right about having opened it.

I’ve also read a Wired article about the D programming language.  It does interest me, so I’m probably going to download the development package for me to play with sometime this week.  Actually playing with it may have to wait for a bit as I have some dabbling in XCode tutorials that I promised myself I would go through before I would move on to anything else.  Either way, whatever I doodle around with I’ll probably post up here in some way, shape or form sometime in the next couple of weeks.

I turned on my PC laptop recently after a couple of months of neglect, as I’ve been spending a lot of time with the new “girlfriend”, my Macbook Pro which continues to impress me with its speed and versatility.  Still, the PC is a good machine and served me faithfully for a number of years, and there are developer tools on it that I cannot use on the Mac so it’s not like I’m kicking it off to the side.  What I really need to do is go through the hard drive and archive important information on an external hard drive.  At some point, I may look into swapping out the hard drive in the Lenovo for an SSD to see if that improves the performance of the machine.  What passes for conventional wisdom in my head says it should, but I don’t tinker with laptops that often so I want to proceed with some caution here, as the last laptop fried itself after I installed Windows 7 on it.  Not sure if the installation had anything to do with the frying, but the one did follow the other pretty closely.

I’m starting to seriously think about how I want to renovate my home office.  It won’t be something that happens right away, as I am currently saving money for the upcoming trip to New Zealand in October.  However, the office currently is not a very good workspace for me at the moment, and I am certain that a lot of what will be required to change that is simply decluttering the area and re-arranging some things.  Among the things that need to go in that room are the daybed which only is of use to the dogs, an end table that goes with the day beds, a pile of old clothes set aside for goodwill, a pile of old tech that is of no further use to either of us, and possibly the chest of drawers over in the alcove toward the front of the house.  There’s an appalling amount of wasted space in that room that currently is just more or less used to store a pile of stuff in.  There’s no real character to the room and no flow.  I guess I should also finally retire the old IMac I have currently (it originally belonged to my mother and was bought in 2006 so it’s incredibly obsolete to say the least.

There will probably be a fair amount of this sort of stream of consciousness blogging for a while until I get a little more used to writing more regularly.  Bear with me faithful reader, and keep coming back.


The New (Old) Blog

So I’ve had this blog here for over a year, but I’ve only just started actually doing anything with it.  I’ve maintained a blog before at livejournal, but that blog is now pretty much defunct.  In fact, I think I locked all the posts just because it just isn’t really relevant anymore.  I used it more or less for the same purposes people now use Facebook, and as such, it no longer really works for me in that regard.

Some of the things I’ve been engaging myself with in recent weeks:

1.  Make time daily for Pluralsight.  I’ve had the subscription for a while, but have not been good about making time to use it.  My current approach is to do about an hour of a course every day minimum, and make sure that whatever concept is covered is something I have no questions about by the end of that hour.  Currently I’m sort of doing a little review of C# with Scott Allen’s C# Fundamentals.  It’s pretty basic stuff, but my rationale is that it never hurts to reinforce the basics.  That and I’m also examining how the basics are taught and approached so that I can potentially do the same thing in the future.

2.  Reading blogs.  The latest one I’ve come across is Iris Classon’s which appeals to me largely because she’s apparently gone from taking her first intro courses in programming to being a Microsoft MVP in about a year.  Obviously she did this by working her rear off, but there’s hard work and then there’s hard smart work.  She seems to have done both with a healthy splash of creative thinking.

3.  Walking:  Not really programming related, but I promised myself I’d walk at least 2 miles after work to try and get myself moving again.  I haven’t been running as much as I’d like and I figure the best way to get my momentum back is to do what I did 3 years ago:  Walk long distances until walking got to be not enough.  I’m thinking that it won’t take as long as it did last time since last time I was in much worse shape.  I mention it here because I’m a firm believer that how you feel physically directly influences how your brain works, and walking along the trail near my house is a great time for clearing cobwebs and sharpening the mind.

4.  Local groups.  I’ve been looking primarily on Linkedin and Meetup for local developer groups so I can be more connected to my local network.  I’d been to a few meetings a few years ago, but my schedule got so ridiculously full that it became impossible to plan anything less than 6 months in advance.  Having cleaned up my schedule, that will hopefully change.  I’d hoped to make it to a CMAP meeting at the beginning of the month, but the government shutdown happened the same day, and I just wound up going home and yelling at the TV instead.  Next month hopefully.  In the meantime, I’m hoping to attend at least one group by the end of the month and make that more of a regular thing.