Monthly Archives: January 2006

I want an Apple MacBook Pro

I watched the Steve Jobs MacWorld keynote on Tuesday from MacWorld after learning several month ago that Apple was moving from PowerPC processors to new Intel dual core processors.

This is great news for a couple reasons, the Macs are going to be a lot faster and the possibility exists to run Windows on it.  I have been a closet Mac fan for a while and read developer blogs where developers rave over writing software on the Mac.  They sound so cool. I am only human, I want to be cool too.

If you check out the specs on the new MacBook Pro from the Apple web site you can see the how Apple is a true engineering company with the end user in mind.  I own an iPod Mini that I use to listen to books from Audible.com and I love it.  It has a nice simple interface and it just works.  Looking at the new MacBook Pro you can see the same level of design was put into it.  I am starting to see why Apple customers are so loyal.

I write software based on the Microsoft .NET platform by day but am working on learning Ruby on the side.  I would also have the opportunity to learn some other Apple development tools.  It was be a wonderful thing if I had a new dual core MacBook Pro with a couple gigs of RAM, 100 gig 7200 RPM SATA hard disk configured to dual boot OS X and Windows.  This could be the ultimate development system.

I would also get all those bells and whistles a Apple laptop is famous for as well as all the new goodies in there as well.   How can I order one of these and make it seem like I really "need" it?

A cheaper option would be to buy a MacMini for $500 and get started that way, but no Intel chips and therefore no dual boot.  Decisions, decisions.

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Foxit Software PDF Reader

I recently read a post over on Scott Hanselman’s blog about Foxit Software’s PDF reader.  This is a PDF reader to replace Adobe Acrobat Reader.  I have to admit, I HATE Adobe Acrobat Reader.  It’s slow, it’s bloated, it stays in memory after use and it’s unpredictable.

I have used Acrobat Reader for years and was relatively happy with it until after v3.0.  Upon discovering the Foxit Software PDF Reader I decided to give it a try.  I uninstalled my Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.02 with a small ceremony and unzipped my new Foxit PDF Reader looking for the install, and there was none.  All that was enclosed in the zip was an .exe file.  I copied the .exe to my path and gave it a shot by clicking on an existing PDF file.

The Result

It just worked.  Windows recognized the .PDF was associated with the Foxit Reader with no problems.  I opened IE and found a PDF on the web and loaded it, it just worked too.  It was also very fast.  When exiting IE the Foxit executable was gone from memory.  This is how software should work.

I recommend replacing your bloated Adobe Acrobat as soon as possible and use the Foxit Reader.  I am not affiliated with Foxit Software in any way, just thrilled to have found some great software.

 

You can download it from here.

 

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Exploring Ruby

I started playing around with Ruby back in the fall to see what all the hype was about and learn a bit about a language that is not by Microsoft, not because I wanted to stay clear of Microsoft but to try something different.  As I mentioned before my career has been with mainly Microsoft products.

I picked up a copy of Programming Ruby from the Pragmatic Programmers.  This book seems to be the standard text on the subject.  I also downloaded the most recent build of Ruby from http://www.ruby-lang.org/en/.  I am currently running my tests on Windows an there is an installer for Ruby from Ruby-winms32.  Using the installer from Ruby-winms32 really makes the setup of Ruby on Windows very easy.

I am very used to the developer experience in Visual Studio.NET 2003/2005 and I am spoiled by it.  As I started to look at Ruby I knew I needed to also look at an environment to use to hopefully allow me to write Ruby code as well as do some of the things I am used to like integrated debugging and visual design of web pages.  I did a Google search and found that Eclipse has an add-in called RDT – Ruby Development Tools which seems to do most of what I am looking for, most importantly the debugging aspect.  I will try it out and report my findings.

For now I am writing Ruby code in Notepad2, which thanks to Scott Hanselman, has Ruby syntax highlighting.

I also found a nice Ruby tutorial and the ability to try Ruby online without installing Ruby.  This is great even to just to play around.

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The Graying Software Industry

Sahil Malik has a great post on the aging of the people in the software industry.  The gist of the post is how the ambition and drive of the developer changes as they get older.  I had posted about this and Information overload back in September 2005

I am a software developer and have been for over 20 years now.  I started with a software company while still in high school writing Microsoft BASIC business applications.  I didn’t understand most of the business logic I was implementing but it was fun and I was getting paid to do something fun.  I work 60+ hours a week and when not getting paid I still played around with BASIC on my Kaypro "portable" running CPM.

I am now 39, as of this writing, and I struggle with many of the same issues in Sahil’s post.  It is difficult to gather the energy to work long hours any more and the stress of trying to keep current is sometimes overwhelming.  I have a family and like to spend time with them and to enjoy some of my other hobbies which include backpacking and working around the house.

At the time of the dotcom bubble bursting I was laid off from my employer and for the first time really looked hard at whether I wanted to continue with the career I had laid out for myself.  I still enjoyed the technology but found the constant drive to keep-up was very stressful.  The brutal realization is…it is difficult to make as much money in most other careers as I can easily make in software consulting.  Yes, money is not everything but if you are used to a certain level of income and you think about changing careers and realize you are lucky to have half your current income, then it makes you think.

I am currently working on an eCommerce solution for a company in Sturbridge, MA and doing it from the ground up in C# and Visual Studio 2005.  I am the lead with a couple other people and a consultant on the project.  I find it harder and harder to compete with younger and more ambitious younger folks.

Where do we go from here?  I cannot imagine chasing technology even 10 years from now and trying to learn whatever the favorite language of the day is, be it C# 10.0 or Ruby++. 

The simple answer is setting your sights on a manager position in a company and do that until retirement, creating a software product and support it for my income or becoming the "tech prostitute" like in Sahil’s post.  I certainly can’t imagine the first or later options.

Thoughts??

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2006 Resolutions

Well, it’s 2006 and I am back to work after a much needed vacation.  The holidays were great and I was able to decompress and catch up on family time and think about some of the things I want to accomplish in 2006.

  1. Blog more – I want to increase the frequency of my blog posts and improve the content.
  2. Learn Ruby and Ruby on Rails – I would like to increase the number of programming languages I know and expand my exposure to those beyond Microsoft.  I have done a fair amount of reading Ruby code and have been following the 37Signals development of Ruby on Rails.
  3. Get Products Out – I have had several ideas on the back burner for some web-based products.  I plan to get those out this year and it will be my foray into running a microISV.
  4. Go to a conference – Attend at least one major conference this year, maybe TechED, maybe something else.
  5. Network – I will get involved with 1-2 user groups or business groups and attend one meeting per month.

I am sure there are other things I would like to do but too long of a list will result in much less getting done. 

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Happy New Year 2006

Happy New Year everyone!  This is my first post of 2006 and will hopefully be the start of many more posts. 

The New Year is a time to reflect back on the previous year and look forward to the next 12 months.  I am sitting here trying to determine what is going to motivate me for the next year as I look out the window of 5" of new fallen snow.

My first task of 2006 is to go out and shovel the driveway and walkways of our new snowfall.  Just trying to get motivated to do it.

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