Yes, I’m still alive…

It’s been a quiet week on the home front.  About the most exciting thing I’ve done this week is order new glasses.  No pictures of the house from my weekly visit (last Sunday).  Everything is moving along, the drywall is up, and it looks good.

Next week is the last week of my current job.  It has been a great two and a half years, I’ve accomplished my personal goals, and it is now time to move on.

Hopefully soon, this blog will be back to its regular programming (pun intended!)

The End of an Era

I can’t believe it.  After two and a half years, I turned in my two-week notice to my company today.  It has been a wild ride.  This is the second company that I’ve gone through the boom-to-bust transition.  The first company that I was with was a dotCOM during the late 90’s.  Yes, it was a fun ride, but, man, was it stressful.  My current company is a home builder.  Things were going along very well until we were acquired.  Unfortunately, the market turned south literally moments after the ink was dry.

Now, as to why *I* am leaving, it’s an interesting story.  Most of it has to do with where I want to take my career.  I have constantly pushed to be a Software Architect.  At the ‘pre-acquisition’ time frame of last company, I was able to advance myself in that area.  After the acquisition, though, my part of the company changed to maintenance and transition mode.  I haven’t really programmed much since August.  That’s a long time for a developer to not develop.  It got frustrating.  I started to reevaluate what made me happy.  Coding and designing made me happy.  Trying to be a facilitator didn’t.  I don’t have the temperament to be a middle man.  I know that I have to learn more of that, and that would have been a good place, *if* I had had a person who had the patience to teach it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.  And so, I felt like I was not being productive, and not nearly worth my princely salary. 

So, out of the blue, this architect position shows up.  The details were worked out rather quickly, and bang, I’ve got a new job!  It is going to be *very* exciting.  I HAVE to use Architecting/Engineering to solve problems, because brute force just isn’t going to get the job done.  It’s going to be about writing and using tools to boost productivity of not only myself, but the team I will be working on.

It should be exciting stuff!

South Florida Code Camp ’07

Whew, what a long, wonderful day!  Today was the annual South Florida .Net Code Camp.  This was the 3rd Annual Code Camp.  This year was radically different for me from last year, that’s for sure!  Last year, every one was talking about Vista.  When’s it due?  What are the APIs?  The Ajax libraries were just starting to be baked.  The sessions were OK, but not a lot of working code.  I only lasted until lunch, and then disappeared.

This year, what a reversal!  The Sharepoint 2007 and SQL Server 2005 Datamining tracks DOMINATED the sessions.  AJAX everywhere.  Lots of code.  Lots of ideas.  Almost every computer had Vista installed, and *EVERYONE* running it was using UAC/LUA.

My day started off with an incredible session from Microsoft’s Jeff Barnes.  The session was about the roles and responsibilities of Software Architects.  It was an excellent presentation that really got me thinking about what I need to be doing to really get my ‘Software Architect’ title.  It’s going to be a long road,  but one that will be worth it!

The next two sessions were decent.  I caught John Holliday’s talk on document management in Sharepoint 2007.  There are some REALLY interesting things that can be done with Sharepoint that John demonstrated.  Unfortunately for me (and, I think, the rest of the people in the room), I thought John was going to be covering something like an how to manage documents with work flows and such, and he mainly covered how to program your own library templates.  He spoke well, but I think the audience was either expecting more or something different.  Next up was Wes Dumey covering SQL Server’s Integration Services (SSIS).  This was one of the ‘lot’s of people’ classes, and about half of us were standing.  That might have influenced my decision to leave early.  I’ve worked with SSIS, and I wish that Wes had demonstrated building one, rather than showing demos.  I wanted to see if there were some different ways to approach SSIS development.

After lunch, I ended up catching an impromptu profiling session in the room where my next session was going to take place.  The previous speaker and one of the attendees were talking about Boxing, Garbage Collection, and using the CLR Profiler to see what was going on.  This turned into a totally eye-opening revelation.  What I learned was that it is advisible not to box if you can avoid it.  Use templates instead!

After the little profiling session, it was back to the main track of Windows Workflow Foundation with Matt Mikulicz.  I hadn’t realized what WF could do!  Matt did a great job demoing the WF, and it really has me thinking.  Well, at least the first question is ‘why’?  The session definitely gave me some food for though.  It seems like a non-programmer’s way of programming, but there are some neat benefits.  Two things that I will be interested to find out are how well does it scale and how well does it handle complicated workflows?  Usually these demos are basic, and don’t really cover real work examples, so I take them with a grain of salt.  Still, it does show promise!

Next up was a fun session, the Intro to XNA Game Studio by Bill Riess.  XNA Game Studio is a freely available development studio for games for the PC and XBox 360.  In fact, the games written in XNA Game Studio usually have a Single Source for both PC and XBox 360.  Despite a rough beginning to the session, Bill was able to demonstrate some *really* cool stuff that a single person can do with just a little bit of time and effort.  (Now, if only I had one or the other!)  After looking at his blog, he’s got a step-by-step guide to creating a game that I will *definitely* have to read!

Finally, the last session of the day was Builder Better Web Sites Faster with Microsoft Web Client Software Factory by David Hayden.  This was a very cool session that crammed a LOT of information into 1 hour and 10 minutes!  David explained a LOT of the Web Client Software Factory and the pieces that it uses, the Microsoft Enterprise Library.  I plan to have a much closer look at this, as I could use this technology to build a couple of sites with a lot more features than I currently have.  I did forget to ask whether the Microsoft AJAX Library can be used with this technology.  I’m sure I can make it work, but would like to have *some* confirmation. 

On an aside, one thing that is really nice to see is that Microsoft is REALLY using Codeplex.  Unlike the late ‘GotDotNet’ site, CodePlex seems to really be well thought out and VERY usable.  It’s nice to see Microsoft using it for ‘Official’ projects like the Enterprise Library and the AJAX Components.

After the last session was the wrap up and raffle.  Everyone received a Code Camp t-shirt, and I even won a book on VB.NET 2005!  VERY COOL!  I was also able to catch up with some of the people I used to work with before leaving.

All in all, *very* exhausting, but *VERY* fun!  I can’t wait until Code Camp ’08!

Picture of my house

Ok, after the soap opera that went around with my house situation, I finally have the exact house and options picked out AND SIGNED FOR!  This is important, as the last one I pictured was not, and I ended up not being able to buy it.

So, without further ado, here is the latest pictures of my new home…

Cool Vista feature: Windows Photo Gallery

I don’t know why this feature from Vista isn’t being talked about more… it’s Windows Photo Gallery.  I had overlooked this feature until just recently. 

Here is why I found the Photo Gallery.  One of the neat features about the Windows Sidebar is the gadgets.  I had put the picture viewer gadget on the Sidebar, but had gotten tired of looking at just the basic sample images.  So, I finally transfered over my pictures from my old XP hard drive.  I had forgotten that my picture files were a mess.  I thought that I had read somewhere that Vista had an enhanced picture manager, but I couldn’t remember the name.  With a little bit of help from the help system, I found the Windows Photo Gallery.

Windows Photo Gallery is a great addition to Vista.  It allows for tagging pictures, searching, renaming, moving, and fixing of photos.  I was able to reorganize my photo library pretty quickly, get things tagged, and rename the files to something useful.

Nice job Microsoft!