Sorry for the very long delay in posts. I’ve been doing most of my posting at www.overpass.co.uk.
But I saw this video today. It is very good and it’s nice to see my home in such beautiful pictures.
I haven’t been blogging very much this year. To be honest, I’ve been involved in a contract for the past year and spend most of my free time learning new tech languages.
Every so often, I think, I should post something. I used to post 3-4 times a month on what was on my mind. I’ve had things on my mind this year, of course, but haven’t felt like posting.
I’ve been given an opportunity to do some work in Sharepoint. I’ve read a lot about it and played with some code, but . . . yawn! Just because it’s a MS technology doesn’t mean it’s great. I hear things like “It’s so powerful. . . you can create a new site in seconds”. But, I can create a better one in Joomla and full control over the html that is output. I’ve seen too many Sharepoint 2010 features work in IE9, but not in Firefox or Chrome. No problem if you are in a bank, but not out in the wild. So, I wont’ be working with Sharepoint anytime soon. It bothers me how much time I’ve spent on it already.
So, I would like to get more of my opinions expressed here. I’m still up at 4:30—but most of that time now goes to working on pet projects or running.
I started working with DotNetNuke almost 5 years ago when it was pretty new. I had used php-nuke, so was excited to use a cms written for the .net platform. I skinned a few apps and played with it a bit. But ultimately, I didnât use.
So, I started using DNN for a job recently. Itâs on version 5 now (version 6 is very soon to be released), and I have to sayâit shows its age. Iâm not a fan. When the web is trying to go very mvc, ajaxy, and rest-y, DotNetNuke is stuck in 2006. Itâs as if web 2.0 left it behind.
There are a lot of great things going on the web development arena, even for Microsoft developers. The MVC framework is elegant and fantastic. Silverlight is very cool. HTML5 and jquery make cross-browser more fun than ever. It makes you want to forget all that messy webform code with its code-behind and postbacks. So, DNN just feels old.
I never really liked the way Microsoft abandoned classic ASP, which was not all that different from php. It encouraged developers to think about session state and requests and responses. It focused more on the html that was delivered to the browser. You could view the source of any page you wrote in classic asp and recognize the html as the markup you had written.
Iâm glad Microsoft is really pushing the MVC framework, which gives developers more control over the HTML that is produced.
DNN is a good platform, but written with a bad technology. I hope someone notices the writing on the wall for .net webforms and starts a massive rewrite into a more current language.
Okay, so itâs been, like, months since I posted anything. I havenât been neglecting the blog on purposeâIâve just been working a contract that keeps me pretty busy and training for the marathon.
First, I ran the Reading Half Marathon in March for the third straight year. This year, my time was 1 hour, 53 minutes and some odd seconds. Iâve been training a lot, but it wasnât a tremendous improvement.
I finished the London Marathon in April with a time of 4:35:58. My only goal on the run was to keep from walking. I didnât care what my time wasâas long as I didnât walk. I walked in the 1994 Honolulu Marathon and I didnât want to walk in this one. Well, despite my 21.8 mile training runs, I did succumb to walking after the twenty-first mile. It was a pretty warm day and I just couldnât keep it up. I finished the marathon with a new personal-best (since my 1994 marathon was over five hours), but couldnât keep running. Oh wellâif it was easy, everyone would do it. Still, Iâm proud of myself.
Iâve been working a Silverlight job for the past six months. Iâm enjoying it.
Iâve really fallen off the social networking band-wagon. Iâve tweeted like one thing this year and havenât posted here, either. Despite not tweeting anything, I still get new followers every dayâthis just goes to show how many people are trying to game the system and collect followers by following as many people as they can no matter how active they are. And I havenât been on Facebook much, either. Sometimes it just feels nice to (as they say in the spy movies) go dark and just disappear for a while.
So, thatâs what Iâve been up toârunning, working, and not much else. Iâm trying to keep things simple. Iâm happy.
The big Christmas present for me this year was the Kindle. Iâve wanted one since they came out in the States a few years ago, but they were only made available in England last year. When I took on a contract a few months ago, I told myself that I would buy myself a Kindle to celebrate (it didnât seem right to buy one when the money wasnât coming in), but I was told to hold off until after Christmas.
I have a habit of buying myself things before Christmas. This makes shopping for me pretty difficult. If there is something I really really want, I will usually just buy it. The only time I wouldnât just buy it, would be if it was too expensive. In this case, it would definitely be too expensive for someone else to get it for me for Christmas.
I found myself more jaded about Christmas shopping this year. My entire life, Iâve heard the same complaints about Christmasâitâs too commercial. I never understood this as a kid, but when you grow up itâs hard to avoid. As a kid, the more stuff the better. As an adult, you start to look at how much clutter you have in your life and get tired of being marketed to.
I refuse to shop for presents before December. This often means a lot of panic at weekends leading up to the big day. I walk down a high streetâmy feet shuffling and trudging forward aimlesslyâwithout a clue about what to buy other people. Other members of my family are shuffling around with no idea what to buy me. I found myself thinking this year: âDidnât we just have Christmas?â
There is so much tat and junk at Christmas that it is actually an economy in itself. There is an entire product range that should be called âWe know you would never buy this normally, but since it is Christmas and you have no idea what to get himâwe know youâll buy it nowâ. The ads are all filled with perfume, celebrity autobiographies, and Jeremy Clarkson DVDs at Christmas time. Thereâs no chance you would buy any of this junk if you didnât feel you absolutely had to fill that gap in your Christmas list.
Christmas is funny this way. There is such a build up for the big day and everyone wants to capture the magic of their childhood once again with it. As a parent, Iâm very conscious of the fact that those magical moments are happening now for my kids, so I want the holiday to be as perfect as it can be. But, after New Years Day, you are left with lots of extra baggage and a tree in your living room.
I started writing this to say how cool my new Kindle is and ended with a rant about Christmas. Well, Iâll talk about the Kindle another time.
We had about 3 or 4 inches of snow on Saturday. This is very exciting in England. It causes chaos all over the place. On Monday, the airports were still closed. If you listen to the radio, youâd think there was a natural disaster outside âdonât go out unless you absolutely need to.
It seems silly when you think of places where they really get snow, but England doesn’t have the infrastructure for this type of weather.
On Saturday morning, we woke up to a Winter Wonderland outside. I was going to do a 10-mile run as Iâve done the last few Saturdays. Instead, I ran about a half a mile until I came to a road with cars trying to drive up a snowy road and getting nowhere. So, I spent a while helping people by pushing their cars uphill. Then, I ran the short distance back home and got into a snowball fight with my kids.
Every night since Saturday, the news has had one storyââWhy canât England handle snow?â Why is there such chaos on the roads? Why is transportation so affected? We got the same story last year when we had a surprising amount of snowâand the year before that.
Actually, I think England is perfect for snowy weather. Although I grew up in San Diego, where we never got snow, I have lived for a few years in Missouri where it snowed a lot. On the first snowfall day, I made a snowman (I was like 24, but it was a novelty to me), but then the snow stayed for months. Toward the end, you get so sick of snow and ice and cold. In England, you have to take advantage and enjoy it because it will be gone in a few days.
Iâm sitting here in the early morning getting ready for my last day of work for the year an itâs snowing again outside. That means more weather warnings and traffic chaos. But all in all, I love these snowy days.
The past few weeks have been real bliss. Iâm really enjoying my new contract.
One of my goals in finding a contract this time was to stay out of London. Iâve had enough of the London commute with its delayed trains and crowded tubes. So, in my new job I commute three days a week (working from home two days) on my motorbike. Iâm working in two different locations about an hour awayâbut on country roads. Each morning, I pack up my laptop, strap it to my back, and ride to one of the client offices.
My work has been all Silverlight so far. I love getting stuck in a new language. Iâm having flashes of insight as to how to do cool things while Iâm out running or taking a shower. Itâs a novelty and heavy on the brain.
I still wake up early, but my morning time is spent with meditation and running (and surfing around reading up on technology).
Life is going well.
Well, after 16 months of trying to get Overpass up and running as an outsourcing company, Iâm going back to contracting.
Itâs been fun.Â Iâve met a lot of great developers, been to China a few times to meet with software companies, and have worked on projects for small companies here and there.Â But my skills as a salesman are terribleâand I hate cold-calling more than anything.Â So, itâs time to change direction and get back to doing what I do well.
Even while trying to run my own software business, Iâve continued to codeâlearning technologies like Silverlight and NHibernate.Â The nice thing about taking time off from contracting is that you get to build the skills you want to have, instead of the skills people will hire you for.Â Iâm my own DIY project and I can never stop learning the new skills.
Getting back to contracting is a big relief to me.Â Selling myself (as a developer) has never been difficult, but selling the skills of other developers is tough.
On Monday I start a new contract in Basingstoke.Â Iâm very excited about it.Â My main goal while looking for a contract was to stay out of London.Â Londonâs a great place but I want to get familiar with more of England.Â If I can stay away from the crowded trains and tubes, all the better.Â Iâm starting a four-month contract with a company that looks like it will be a lot of fun.Â It also gives me the chance to work from home a few days a week.
Itâs a good solid coding jobâno offshoring at all.Â Also, no mentoring, no team leading, and no budgeting.Â Itâs going to be great.
Overpass will continue to be a company, but it will be a company of one.
Is this a failure?Â Um. . . not yet.
Iâm thirty-eightâI probably havenât even reached this lifeâs half-way point.Â Iâm looking forward to the future and am very optimistic about it.Â Seven years ago, I was a permanent employee for a tiny company in Reading.Â Thirteen years ago, I was a substitute teacher in Missouri and became a qualified to teach high school.Â Twenty years ago, I was a soldier learning to speak Chinese.Â Who knows what the future will bring?
Four years ago, my colleagues at BNP Paribas gave me an iPod Nano as a leaving gift. It worked great and I use it all the time for running. I have a big iPod Classic too, but this little 1Gb gadget is perfect for my runs (since it has the flash memory and I find it easy to navigate the music while running than I did when running with an iPhone.
The problem is that a few years ago, after running with it through the rain, the click wheel stopped working properly. It works eventually but you have to fiddle with it. For example, the menu button wouldnât work until you clicked it about 5 times. It was annoying, but I learned to live with it. I thought about replacing it, but it hardly I couldnât really justify the expense to myself to get a new one.
So the other day, I stumbled upon some videos on how to fix various problems with iPods, iPhones, etc. Since my Nano was probably way outside any warranty anyway, I decided to fix it myself. Around my house, Iâm known for fixing things and making them worse (like flooding my own kitchen or making a small leaky tap to a large leaky tap), so it went against my better judgementâbut I tried it anyway..
I bought a new click wheel for Â£3.99 from http://www.appleiphoneparts.co.uk/. It was tiny and it came in an envelope the next day. They have loads of parts I also bought a iPhone toolkit from E-Cell on ebay (http://stores.ebay.co.uk/E-Cell-Global) for Â£2.95.
I then watched a video made by DigiExpress in the US (http://www.digiexpress.us/) which walks through how to replace it:
I had to pause this video loads of times at each step, but I got it to work. It took me about 20 minutes. My 4-year-old Nano is just like new. When the battery goes out on it, I will be able to replace that too. Iâm chuffed about saving some money by fixing myself, but Iâm more pleased that I didnât have to add yet one more piece of technology to a landfill somewhere.
The weather here in Oxfordshire has been fantastic the past few weeks. Itâs not like English weather at all, but a lot more like the California summers Iâve grown up with. The weather has been sunny and about 80 degrees Farrenheit. The other day while I was driving with the windows down in the car and the music blaring, it reminded me of taking long drives in the Statesâexcept that I was sitting on what should have been the passenger seat and driving in the lane that should have had oncoming traffic.
One of the things people ask me a lot (during small talk, of course) is if I miss the California weather. I do, but not so much. One thing Iâve found since moving here is that English people are a lot more concerned with the weather than people who grow up in California. The weather in San Diego was always nice, so there was never a need to chat about it. Sometimes it rained, but not so often. In England I can see why there is an obsession with weather. Itâs not that the weather is rainy all the time, itâs just that you get a lot of gray, bleak, days. When the weather is nice, you feel like you need to really enjoy it.
When itâs 80 degrees, people start to complain about the heat. Itâs too hot to do anything. Iâve lived in Texas for a few yearsânow that was heat. I worked at Sea World of Texas in San Antonio through the Summer where every day reached over 100 degrees. But after living in the UK for the past 12 years, this weather is too hot.
The past few winters have had record snowfall and it has nearly closed London. But itâs nothing compared to the times Iâve visited Minnesota in the winter. But the infrastructure here is not geared for extremes in weather. Most homes donât have air conditioning and most towns donât have many snow ploughs.
This weather will end soon, but Iâm enjoying it while it lasts. As I write this, Iâm sitting on a blanket in a part watching my kids play in park sprinklers. Life couldnât be better.