Ramblings

It’s been a long time since I posted anything on this site. Well I am starting to get on top of things again so what better time to bring things back to life.

I don’t have any firm plans to post on a regular schedule yet as I’m not sure how much time I can carve out but I will try and update you as and when I know more.

The main focus for now is to document what I have recently learnt about software development, including me learning C# which, along with Visual Studio is all new to me. Along with this there should be some more general rants and of course the occasional photography frustration thrown in for good measure. So pretty much as it was before…

Okay so lets dig in to why I stopped in the first place. The main reason is that soon after returning to full time work my job role changed to a more management type role which I found extremely stressful and over time that made me quite unhappy in myself and so I just didn’t feel like posting anything. Anyway I don’t want to dwell on this, years have passed and things have slowly improved to a slightly happier place where I am now considered “Lead Developer” instead of a manager. This means I get to spend a lot more time in the code again and also hopefully inspire the other members of my team which is the most rewarding part of my job and the reason I stuck it out even when I wasn’t really enjoying things.

Anyway my new position allowed to be introduce a few changes and one of them was to allocate a small amount of time to do some learning during work hours which made a massive difference. It soon made me realise how little I knew about developing in general. I had just assumed that what we were doing was the only way to do things. Trying to make changes to our tangle of spaghetti code was just par for the course. I quickly read a couple of books (I won’t list them here as I plan to revisit them and write up some brief review posts soon) and my eyes were opened. I got the rest of my team to read some bits that I thought would benefit them and this started some discussions and all of a sudden we were all looking at our old code with new eyes. We slowly realised there is a better way…

I always knew that being a developer meant that you should always be learning but I had just assumed that meant there was always a new technology around the corner. I hadn’t previously realised you could learn and improve the “craft” of development. Once I did grasp this I wanted to learn everything at once, listening to multiple podcasts, reading various articles and obviously picking up more books.

There is so much out there that I wasn’t previously aware of that I seem to be improving exponentially. At least that’s the way it feels. Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. There are been some missteps and wrong turns along the way but that’s how you are meant to learn. This feels like a great time to start getting my thoughts on all of this new knowledge into words which should help me solidify things in my head but also allow others to question my take on things and hopefully this might start a discussion or two that can become mutually beneficial.

One of the downsides of being a bit down is that I let my weight slip again. Recently I was up at one of my heaviest weights when only a few years ago I was the lightest I had been in ages. This is something I have started to tackle and the renewed energy this is giving me has made me start to take a look at what drives me and what I can do to make my life better. This involves taking a closer look at my career as well as life outside of work.

From the career side of things it feels that I have been coasting for a while. The sudden insight into what I don’t know proves to me that I wasn’t pushing myself until fairly recently.

As for life outside of work I always felt that this blog was good for me. Just getting things down in words tended to clarify things in my head. It helped me focus on learning new things and then trying to explain those things in a post made me get a better grasp on them rather than just a vague understanding which can then easily be forgotten over short periods of time.

There have been a few big changes in my life since I last posted. One big change in my life is that I have finally plucked up the courage to move out of my childhood home in Taunton. I had lived there since my first birthday, not that I remember that far back, so I was expecting the move to be very hard but it was much easier than I was expecting.

It was time Shirley and I moved to pastures new and it has changed everything. We only moved about half an hour away but our new home is on the edge of a lovely little village just a couple of miles from the sea and we are loving every minute of it, as is our little Chihuahua Ebony. Thinking about it that is another change as I’ve never really had a pet before, unless you count goldfish as I had a few of them when I was back in school.

Oh and one last change, I have now grown a beard. I have never been able to do this in the past as my skin just became too itchy but after a while, and some moisturiser, I got used to it and everyone seemed to approve so I’ve had it for well over a year now. Time to update my profile picture then…

Signature
Image: Pete O’Shea
Kindle with Books

Kindle with BooksWhy, oh why, do we need DRM! My first real run in with this copy protection scheme was with music. Then there are all of the issues surrounding films, including DVDs, Blu-Rays and now digital copies. Lately though the things that’s really bugging me are ebooks!

It’s getting really frustrating that this extra layer of complication seems to tacked onto everything. Not only does it restrict how you use the product that you have legitimately purchased but it also lowers the level of enjoyment you get out of a product.

Take DVDs for example. How many times have you had to sit through the copy protection lecture, that you can’t even skip past, at the start of every DVD? Just to rub salt in the wound, the people that don’t bother to actually part with their cash and just get a dodgy copy from a mate end up getting a better experience as they probably don’t have to sit through it!!!

Unfortunately ebooks are also currently encumbered with DRM, tying you in to the company you buy the book from. Take the Kindle for example. The only place you can buy ebooks for the Kindle is from Amazon. Or is it? Is this all about to change…

Life is fleeting. I, like most other people, very rarely face up to this fact. Every now and then though something makes you realise how fragile life really is. When that happens you need to use that emotion to fuel your own grip on life. Make the most of what you have got, now while you have the chance…

After a bit of recent reflection, I realised that to help me get over the passing of Dad I focussed all of my efforts on losing weight. I looked at myself and felt that I needed to do something about my growing waistline.

Instead of messing about for a couple of weeks, which is what normally happens when I half-heartedly try a new diet, I outlayed some money and signed up for three months on the Diet Chef diet. Alongside the diet I have really upped my activity levels by walking everywhere. This includes walking Shirley to work most days before returning to where I work. That means I tend to cover at least 5 or 6 miles almost every day. Together this has worked wonders and I’ve lost 2½st (35lbs) so far with about 3 or 4 weeks to go!

Miniaturized Keyboard

Miniaturized KeyboardAs you may have noticed I have had a bit of a break from blogging recently. I’ll go into the reasons in a bit more details in a minute but you’ll be glad to hear that I’m back and I plan to start writing regularly again.

I’ve had some time to take a new look at what’s important to me. I have been slacking off a bit recently and after a bit of thought on the subject I realised that I didn’t have as much energy as I should have. This led me to look at my health and one thing that did come to light was that I had put on a bit of weight again…

I’m determined to get my energy levels back up so it’s time to start a new diet. After some searching I decided on Diet Chef. The idea of pre-prepared meals seems great as I think portion control can be one of my downfalls.

It’s not exactly cheap, but at under £6 per day it’s over the top either. The costs involved may even help as when you invest in something you take it a bit more seriously…

Blossom

BlossomWhat have you achieved in your life so far? Is there anything you would like to achieve that you haven’t yet?

These are two very important questions that you should ask yourself regularly.

Take stock every now and again to see what you have accomplished. Sometimes you might surprise yourself when you look back…

Turn your life into a story to be proud of.

Dinner For Two

Dinner For TwoI am a very methodical person, some might say borderline OCD. I like to follow a fixed set of rules in a simple, logical manner. Whether this is due to my choice of career or simply a reason why programming is my career, I’ll never know.

If the rules are well defined then I can crank out work at a pretty good rate. The fuzzier the logic then the slower I can become. If the rules are unknown or very unrestrictive then I can flounder over the simplest of tasks. A simple thing like picking a name for a variable can sometimes waste 5 minutes or so if there are no pre-defined coding rules…

If you find yourself resisting something then it is likely that you have some piece of information missing. Without that missing piece the job seems too hard to tackle and so your subconscious tries to find ways to avoid it.

Noticing these points of resistance early on can be a great boon for productivity!

Bookshelf

BookshelfAs I have mentioned before I am on a mission to purge a lot of stuff from my life. Especially items that I no longer have use for.

Over the years I had accumulated a fairly large collection of books. I only ever read them once but I just liked to have a copy of each book I read. This even went to the level of me picking up a couple of books from a second hand shop with no intention of ever reading them…

I had read a lot of books while travelling. Some I boxed up and sent home—another wasted cost looking back—but others I either borrowed or left behind when moving on. One such book was The Beach by Alex Garland—the subsequent film was OK but the book was much better. Everyone seemed to be reading that book so I borrowed it off a friend and really enjoyed it. So much so I decided to pick up a copy when I got home just to sit on my shelf and gather dust…

Anyway you get the picture, I had a pretty large collection of books, some paperback and some hardback, that I wanted to get rid of so I thought I would simply sell them online.

Cheddar StalagmitesIn my previous post, The World Is Still Spinning, I noticed that I missed posting an article the week before. This gave me pause for thought and I decided to look back over what I have written about over the 2 years since the very first post.

To help me gather together my thoughts on what I had written I thought it might be a good idead to collect some notes and links to the various types of posts I have written. This grew a bit out of hand to be included in last weeks post so I though it best to release this summary of my blog so far as a separate entity. But be warned, even on it’s own it’s quite a long post though…

Anyway I hope you enjoy it and please leave a comment if you feel so inclined…

Inquisitive BirdSomehow I completely forgot to post something last Friday. I haven’t missed a week since I started nearly 2 years ago so I started to feel that I had really let myself down…

But guess what, nothing happened. The world is still spinning even though I missed my, self imposed, weekly posting schedule…

I didn’t even notice until about Tuesday. I just happened to go to my blog to reference something I wrote a while ago. Then I noticed that the latest post was written 10 days ago. Oops…

So is this a big deal or not?

Look Out!This whole working for yourself thing is a huge learning curve. I really pushed myself with lots of late nights to reach my recent deadlines. One night I was up till 5:30 in the morning getting ready to deliver a new program to someone the following morning.

So two out of the three projects were delivered pretty much on time. I released the Ski Pad iPhone app last week and it seems to have gone down well. The second project I was working on was a desktop program, developed in Delphi, to track jobs and print tickets for a skip hire company.

The other project… Well every time this project gets discussed there seems to be more issues that add to the workload…