Apr 09 2011

PingTags and LinkedIn…

Category: Blogging,MiscPhil @ 7:00 am

I recently attended  a couple of webinars that focused on the relationship between social media and recruiting. It was very interesting how much emphasis was put on your Internet Presence.  LinkedIn was the obviously leader in professional networking. The speaker actually said your LinkedIn profile is 10 times more important than your resume. I’m not sure I completely believe that point,  at least not until I can apply for a job opportunity with my LinkedIn profile URL!!! However, there must be some truth to the statement; they also said less than 10% of jobs are filled by randomly submitted resumes, via job websites. Most jobs are obtained via your professional network, almost eliminating the need for an actual paper resume. With so much information available about you on the Internet, it is just easier to Google someone. If a perspective hiring manager Googles your name, what exactly will they find? An interesting question…. Are you completely anonymous, with no Internet presence at all? You have a LinkedIn profile, but it is essentially empty and your profile picture is of Rover, your favorite pet. What exactly does that say about you, professionally?  Internet Presence, that was exact reason I started this blog. In the back of my mind, I thought that blogging would be a great, personal communication tool. How better could I share my thoughts, ideas, and lessons learned? It hopefully communicates what I believe is important, from a typically professional perspective.

On to PingTags; a new service, which I believe started earlier this year. It is a pretty simple, generate a QR code and link it with your LinkedIn profile. Give it a try, scan the code to the left! After spending way too much time on my resume and LinkedIn profile, I was rather intrigued by this idea.  I have seen QR codes in magazines, but was never excited by them. They obviously are bound to a paper world and I’m not really much of a paper person. At least 95% of my reading is done through my phone or Kindle, which essentially eliminates the need for scanning QR codes, I just click the link!  So, what is the point of PingTags? What about your business card? That was another interesting suggestion from the webinar; they recommended that everyone have a personal business card, something you can easily share with the people you meet. I honestly have not had a business card in over 15 years. A personal business card is something that I really never thought about, but it does seem like a good idea; and that is exactly what PingTags wants you do to… put the QR code on the back of your business card. I actually thought was kind of cool, in a geeky way! Flip over the card, scan it, and navigate to a nicely formatted mobile version of your profile. Not sure where I will go with this, just good information to know!

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Mar 29 2011

Tired of reading blogs? Try Listening to some podcasts…

Category: Blogging,Software DevelopmentPhil @ 12:01 am

During my time off, I decided to start listening to some technical podcasts. I assume this makes me a complete geek, but since I increased my running distance to three miles per day, it turned out to be a very good use of my time. I believe podcasts can be an excellent source of information and even entertainment. The best strategy is to listen to different topics, topics that you don’t encounter everyday. A person can only read so many blogs! If you are like me, you probably only read blogs which are related to your personal interests. Seems completely normal, but how do you ever get exposed to different technologies or techniques? Unless you change companies or completely refresh your team every 6 to 12 months, your learning environment can become very stale. Listening to different topics is an great way to re-energize your brain and kick start your creative thought processing; at least it does for me!

Several months ago, I discovered Scott Hanselman. He happens to work for Microsoft, but don’t hold that against him. He records several podcasts each week or so; I subscribe to two of them and they are both excellent. Scott focuses on a variety of software development issues and technologies. Hanselminutes is more technology oriented, while This Developers Life covers a variety of personal issue, from motivation, drive, to the Egyptian Revolution. I highly recommend going back and listening to all of the old This Developer’s Life episodes; I can’t tell you how insightful and reflective they are. As an added bonus, you get to hear some rather interesting musical choices! The people that he interviews are so interesting and have some really funny commentary. You will hear stories from different types of developers, both famous and infamous. You will learn how they navigated through their careers, sometimes successfully and other times, not so well. All I can say, is they are definitely worth the time! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Interesting Podcast Topics from Hanselminutes…

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Mar 15 2011

Upgraded Web Browsing…. Firefox 4 and Chrome 10…

Category: Blogging,Software DevelopmentPhil @ 11:49 am

This might seem a little off topic, but the web browser could be considered one of your primary development tools. Just think how much time you actually spend in a browser:  researching, reading, testing, debugging, or simply wasting time! After playing with a few Chrome Extensions, I realized just how much more efficient I could be.  I liked the way Chrome integrates information and makes it useful, which is essentially Google’s Mission.

I had been a loyal Firefox user for many years. Firefox provided a nice cross-platform experience between Windows and Linux, and was highly extensible. This extensibility was one of the early benefits of Firefox, the ability to add new behavior to the browser through “Add-ons”. Amazingly, I was never a big “Add-on” user, I used a few of them, but did not take advantage or even explore what they could do for me. I used the Delicious Add-on for my bookmarking needs, but recently moved to the Diigo Add-on. I also use Firefox Sync for browser synchronization, including my tabs, bookmarks, history, etc. For posting to my blog, I’m a huge fan of the ScribeFire Add-on.  If you happen to do web page development, you have to try the Firebug Add-on. That is basically the extent of my Add-on usage, I did not ask too much from my browser!

Before jumping ship, I upgraded all of my machines to the Firefox 4 Beta. There were numerous technical improvements, but I was primarily focused on pure usability and how the browser could help me be more efficient. Start-up time was one of my biggest Firefox complaints; the browser seemed to have a tendency to bog down over time. The new version seems to have gone through a pretty dramatic user interface overhaul and addressed multiple performance issues, including start-up.

I was pretty happy with the UI changes, preferring the new, but controversial new tab location. The tabs are now located over-top of the navigation tool-bar; there was apparently quite a bit of debate on this little change! I prefer having two control rows at the top of the browser window, one row for tabs and the another row for navigation, apps, and widgets. I have seen a lot of content about these “web apps”, but it seems a little like pure marketing to me! The Firefox implementation, App Tabs, appear to be little more than a space saving short-cut; however, I can see them providing value for highly used web sites.

I had installed Chrome a couple of years ago, but was not too excited by it; I saw no compelling reason to change browsers. Wikipedia has an interesting graph of web browser usage; I was really amazed to see how the Chrome market share has taken off in the last twelve months. Even on my own blog, Chrome accounts for almost 25% of the traffic. I installed the newest version of Chrome last week and was immediately hooked. Unfortunately, I have become a true Google convert. It started with the purchase of my Android phone and there was no looking back. I am not saying that the following activities can or cannot be done in Firefox, I’m simply saying that I like everything better in Chrome!

A simple, but extremely cool feature is the “New Tab” behavior. It obviously opens a new tab, but its contents are quite different than you would expect. It is basically divided into three sections, Apps, Most visited, and Recently closed. Under the Apps section, you will see the Web Store icon; does everyone need to have their own app store these days? Anyway, the Web Store is a very well done site, that makes searching and installing new behavior extremely easy, using either applications or extensions.

Applications seem like fancy bookmarks, but from my reading, they can be (are) a lot more sophisticated. I looked at the SlideRocket app, it was genuinely cool… however, you can also run the app in Firefox! The app concept seems analogous to a rich user interface experience, one that performs like a real desktop application, rather than a collection of old-fashioned HTML pages.

My favorite feature of Chrome has to be the Extensions. Extensions add additional behavior to the browser itself. You can see from the picture to the right, I have added quite a few of them! They integrate into the Navigation Bar and look very nice, consuming minimal space while providing significant functionality. They look similar to the icons found in cell phones; many of the extensions have little indicators that track the number of items you need to address. You can find extensions for all of the standard Google tools: Gmail, Reader, Calendar, and even eBay. The Calendar extension is extremely helpful; it will tell you how long until your next appointment and when you mouse over it, it shows you the event details. The WP Stats is another personal favorite; it tells me how many people have looked at my site! Clicking on some icons will navigate you into the corresponding website, much like a short cut. Other icons have specific behavior, such as showing you detailed web site access statistics or an enhanced view of your search history. My favorite blogging tool, ScribeFire is also available in Chrome, but the spell checker is not working! I like the placement and interaction of the Chrome extensions much better than the traditional Firefox “Add-on” view, which is typically at the bottom of the browser window; Chrome make the extensions feel more integrated with the browser and part of the actual user experience.

My final Chrome praise is the synchronization with my Google account. It is pretty cool to watch an extension get automatically installed on my Windows machine, simply by installing it on my Linux machine. No restart or refresh required, it just automatically shows up!  I did notice one small oddity, I still had to configure the extension on the Windows machine. This seems rather strange, maybe it is a bug…. I assumed that Chrome would save each of the extension’s settings and synchronize them too. Even with this little shortcoming, there is no going back to Firefox for me, I hope you give it a try too!

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Feb 03 2011

Where to start….

Category: Blogging,MiscPhil @ 2:52 pm

Everyone keeps asking me why, what happened to your blog? Why did you stop posting? Unfortunately, it is very complicated answer… I really don’t want to go into the the details. Chances are, you have been in the same boat as me; placed on high profile, transformational project which needed to be done by a specific, non-movable date.  It was a rather large project when you consider how it was staffed; project managers, agile coaches, testing teams, analysis team, business liaisons, business consultants, architects, and a few developers. Combine this sizable staff with a new business vision, introduce some new technology requirements (ESB, BPM, Rules), and I think you will get a pretty clear picture of why I stopped blogging!  This was a very unique opportunity to finally “do it right”; we were able to complete the system last November/December and successfully migrate to production. It was a very stressful period of time for everyone on the team, spanning many months; this including canceled vacations, working weekends, and extremely long days. This is not really a rant, as we all have to go through these experiences at different times in our career, this is really more about what you can learn and can take away from the experience.  Fortunately, I was able to be a student of the process and observed and learned many valuable lessons, and even the reinforcement of many of my fundamental beliefs. Unfortunately, I just did not have the energy to share those thoughts and gave myself a break from blogging.  There are several topics that I do hope to go back and revisit, so you will have to keep on reading!!!!

Finally, the biggest change for me occurred last Friday. I was given the opportunity to take a package from my employer of eighteen years. I want to thank all of the people that guided and supported me during my time there, you know who you are.  I have so many fond memories, met so many great people, it was truly a wonderful time. You would not even believe some my stories from the early days, being chased by security guards (it was not my fault, really), to directing traffic on Wisconsin Ave, flying flight simulators in Silicon Valley with SUN engineers, to almost sitting in Steve Job’s office chair!  Combine this with the large number of projects and unique people that I was given the chance to work with, it was a great place to be. Fortunately, I did not think of my job as work, I was always given the opportunity to learn new things while continually working to innovate and improve the environment.   Anyway, times change, companies change, and people change.  The bottom line is that I am very happy, happier than I have been in a long time. I look at this as a blessing and something that will lead to even better opportunities…  I have no idea what those are, but have a little time to explore the landscape. Thanks again, for all of the personal messages…

What’s next?
Fortunately, I had been working on my resume for the last month, and hope to have it in a marketable state in the very near future. It is amazing how much time it takes to get this going! I have written more emails in the last few days, than I did in the last year! I’m also doing a lot of thinking, what type of place do I really want to work, I hope I have a choice!  I don’t really want a job, I want to be part of a company where I can contribute; I think there is subtle, but significant difference… I worked in a factory during college making all types of flexible steel hose, this was production, not contribution… Contribution is being part of a team, making a difference, having pride in what you do, while producing and meeting your goal. I hope this is not to much to ask!

I am going into learning mode, which makes me very happy… I plan to ramp up my blogging and get my writing skills back into shape. I really enjoy writing, weird! I have already rebuilt my Linux box and have it wired up to a domain, Share My Progress.  I have video conferencing setup via Skype, switched over to my Google Voice number for almost all of my phone calls, all running under Ubuntu 10.10. I had a really good idea yesterday, I’m going to blog about interview questions that I think are very interesting or tripped me up… I already have one in the hopper!

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Feb 25 2010

Blog Spam…

Category: BloggingPhil @ 9:41 pm

What is up with this? I guess my domain must have ended up in some “target” file for a marketing campaign… It is amazing how many “spam” comments get posted to your website each month. Akismet blocked almost 14,000 spam comments THIS month. I used to only get about 50 per month; you can see that last November it started to ramp up (1,700), and then died back down… What is even more curious is that these comments must have gotten past reCAPTCHA…

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Feb 25 2010

Cherry Picture Frame….

Category: Blogging,WoodworkingPhil @ 8:33 pm

I found this really cool poster when we were Christmas shopping last December and thought it would be great for my guitar playing son. Needless to say, I hid the poster in the basement and found it in January, oh well!

I have a quite a stack of ruff sawn cherry in the barn and thought it was actually time to make some sawdust! I planed down enough boards to make a couple frames and build a stand for our new TV. Friend of ours purchased some furniture at Artisan Hardwoods; they have a really nice shaped series of tables called Waterfall, but were a tab bit pricey for me! And besides, why would I buy anything out of wood, when I can build it! I plan to model our TV stand after this design, just a little bit narrower, more like a short console table.

The most interesting part of this project was the price of glass, it was outrageous. You can not even buy “cheap” Plexiglas anymore, it is even more expensive than real glass. No wonder nice picture frames are so expensive! Believe it or not, I had quotes from $35 to over $150. As you can see by the wonderful reflection in the picture, I did not spring for the anti-glare glass, I just could not justify spending $70 on a $10 poster; even if the frame did turn out pretty nice, IMHO.

Sorry for the random, non-technology posts, but I do have hobbies other than software development! So don’t give up on me, I have such a backlog of techo-drafts in the hopper… I have read so many interesting articles in the last couple of months, I just lost a little bit of “writing” incentive over the holidays…  

Maybe a topic for another post, but I was given a “smartphone” for my birthday last December and I actually have not tuned on my home computer since then… no need, what so ever. I can do everything I need to, on my phone; it was actually a pretty weird realization… The only thing I gave up was my ability to “blog”, hence the lack of postings!  I did install the free WordPress application on my Droid, but I like to type too much!

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Jan 05 2010

WordPress and Mobile Themes

Category: BloggingPhil @ 5:51 pm

I ran across a website on my phone the other day and was very impressed with the presentation. I had tried some “mobile friendly” WordPress themes in the past, but was never very excited by them; they always looked too bland on high-resolution devices.  A quick Google search turned up the popular WPtouch plug-in. I was a curious how the plug-in actually integrated with WordPress, as I did not want to replace my current theme with a dedicated mobile theme. The WPtouch theme was the perfect solution (WordPress Site Installation).  I could keep my rich-content theme for high-resolution devices, and WordPress would automatically vend the alternate presentation for the low-resolution devices, such as the the iPhone and Blackberry.  I just can’t put my Droid in that low-resolution group, the screen is just too nice! Additionally, user’s can easily switch back to the primary theme by clicking a button at the bottom of the page, if they prefer that presentation.

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Nov 21 2009

Gnome 3.0 Beta Shell

Category: Blogging,UbuntuPhil @ 6:22 am

Half of the fun of playing with Linux is trying out new stuff! I found a blog the other night that talked about Gnome 3.0 as well as installing it on Ubuntu. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that the current Gnome desktop seems a little dated; it is not vastly different from a pre-Vista Microsoft experience. Add in Avant Window Manager, Screenlets and/or Google Widgets, and you get a more modern Apple/Windows experience. I took the plunge and installed the 3.0 beta last week and have not looked back. I really like the interaction and thought the presentation was pretty slick. It is kind of funny how emotional people get (read the above blog comments) about change. People were going off on the usability and new look; saying it looked like Windows or Mac, or this feature was stolen from some other implementation. Who really cares? And why does everyone have to be so negative? I thought it was pretty creative!  Everything was very intuitive and easy to use; it might take a little more mouse movement to navigate, but the overall concept works for me. After using it for a couple days, I have learned there are multiple ways to navigate around, minimizing the clicks. The “Find” is one such short cut, you can quickly find an application in the menu system. It still has the good old fashioned alt-tab behavior to quickly switch between applications. The only option that was not obvious to me, was the virtual desktops. I’m not a big virtual desktop user any more (too much time on a Windows box during the day!); it did seam a little easier with the 2.x desktop (just needed to scroll the mouse wheel, I think).. Now you can dynamically (and easily) add new desktops through the activities menu (just click the plus icon). There is probably a nice short to to navigate between desktops, but I did not look for it.  One other usability note that is not completely obvious; you don’t actually have to click on the word “Activity” to get access to the menu, just push the mouse all the way to the corner and the menu pops up… Nice…

A couple of other interesting things I found on the Digitizor website.  Installing Chrome on Ubuntu and GIMP to be removed from next release of Ubuntu. I’ve also been playing with Chrome this week; it seems fine and fast. My “Wifi-based” Internet provider has so much latency, that it is hard to really hard to test “fast”.  I have been a fan of GIMP for quite a while and have only figured out the most simplistic functions to support my blogging; I guess I will have to give F-Spot a try in the future!

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Sep 07 2009

Cleaning out my inbox!!!

Category: Blogging,JavaPhil @ 8:16 pm

I have been so busy with work and life, that my blogging had basically stopped for the summer.  I keep sending myself topics and notes about things that I would like to write about. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to do anything with them and the topics keep piling up! I was talking with one of my coworkers last month, and he mentioned that he also had a blog. I mailed myself the link to his site, http://blogs.averconsulting.com/, and forgot all about it!

I thought It would be a good idea to share it, since many of my readers are coworkers as well! He has written some good stuff on the Spring Batch Framework,  REST, and Flex.  Please check it out…

Here is a  link to another one of my coworkers blogs… He  like to write about blogging and web security, you might find that interesting too… http://tdot-blog.com/.

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Jul 07 2009

Social Bookmark Services?

Category: BloggingPhil @ 11:01 pm

I’m sure that everyone has seen this little icon on some web page or blog. Probably, like me, you never bothered to really check it out. How many tools or services do we need to save our bookmarks? I never worried about bookmark synchronization in the past. I would just re-Google my search, nine chances out of ten, I would find the page I was looking for.  I generally don’t have time at work to read most (any) of the interesting articles I run across. To solve this problem, I started emailing the URLs to my home email and would read them in my spare time. This worked fine, but was kind of painful.  I decided to gave http://delicious.com a try. I know this is nothing new; many of my friends have been using Xmarks (Foxmarks) for many years, but I wanted something that was more social. I created an account, http://delicious.com/philbeiler  and use it pretty regularly. I have not gotten into the whole tagging thing yet, I use it mainly to save myself time.  The Firefox plug-in works great. It only takes a second to create new bookmarks or find one that I recently created.

The sad part is, that I have no one in my bookmark network! I think it would be really cool to see what my friends and co-workers were bookmarking. It my opinion, Web 2.0 is about sharing and learning; social bookmarking is just another method for enabling this information exchange. It is so easy for me to send someone to my bookmarks, to share what I have been reading or found interesting. It is also valuable to visit the home link on delicious, just to checkout the most popular bookmarks and tags. I guarantee, you will find something of interest!

I also in the process of migrating my RSS aggregator from NewsGator to Bloglines. Bloglines makes it easier to share what I’m reading as well, creating a public presence on their site, http://www.bloglines.com/public/PhilBeiler.  I have not moved over all of my feeds yet, but it has worked well thus far. More on the reason behind the move later! I have to save that for another blog post!  So, if anyone is using delicious, please add me to your network!

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