Wednesday, August 31, 2011

If you're going to San Francisco

While I'm writing this, the girlfriend and I are on our way from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park. We have spent two full days visiting 'Fog City'. During these two intensive days we were able to see everything we aimed for, maybe more.

Financial District

This part of town is definitely worth a visit. The multiplicity of skyscrapers merging into the San Francisco fog, is an impressive view. When the fog has gone, the shadows the buildings cast on each other are just as amazing.


Pier 39

While obviously a tourist trap, I found strolling through the shops and restaurants on the pier to be surprisingly amusing.


Alcatraz Island

One of the main attractions of San Francisco, and a must see. If you plan on taking a tour on the island, you must make reservations a few days ahead. We failed to do that, and ended up taking a cruise around Alcatraz Island. I feel like we missed out, but the boat tour was definitely good value for money too.


SS Jeremiah O'Brien

Not so far from Pier 39, you can find a very nicely preserved World War II liberty ship. If you have been on one of those ships before, it might not be worth the 10 bucks.


Lombard Street

Thé most famous street in San Francisco, but kind of overrated. Save yourself the steep hill climb, and try finding a view from a few blocks away.


Chinatown

Always a charming neighbourhood to window shop small boutiques for Chinese kitsch.


Golden Gate Bridge

An amazing piece of architecture. Can you imagine building that in the thirties? We drove there by bike, very recommended. Not for the faint of heart though.


Palace of Fine Arts

On your way to the Golden Gate Bridge, you should drop by the Palace of Fine Arts.


Trivia

If Anonymous isn't hacking the Sony network, they are protesting in the streets of San Francisco.



I hope this post might have given you some ideas on locations to visit when you're going to San Francisco.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Data validation, take it seriously

We just heard that we might be stuck in Washington DC for a few hours due to a defect of our plane's backup generator. We decided to notify our hotel we might be running late.

Surfing to the contact page on their site, we found out that we couldn't enter our European mobile phonenumber in the required (!) telephone number field.

Unable to find the direct email address of the hotel, I opened the developer tools and had a look at the validation script.


Instead of even trying to understand the regular expression, I just redefined the validation function using the console and retried sending the message.


Not so suprisingly, judging by the cheesiness of the hotel's website, our message was sent successfully.

According to the OWASP, the number one security risk for web applications in 2010 is failing to validate untrusted data.

Seriously, take data validation seriously. Don't make a fool out of yourself.

Monday, August 22, 2011

West Coast road trip schedule

This Sunday, my girlfriend and I are leaving for a three-week roadtrip along the West Coast.

During these three weeks, we plan on writing about our experiences and publishing them on this blog. We see this as a way to capture memories and report to the homefront in the meantime. I hope the regular readers who come here for technical content, won't be dissapointed.

Usually our holidays are well (or over) prepared. This time we took another approach, we already fixed our route and booked our hotels, but we haven't determined yet what to go see at each location.

For most locations, we wrote down some points of interests though. I know a lot of people who visit this blog are American, so I'm hoping you can add to those or disfavor some of them.

So far, our schedule looks like this.

San Francisco (3 days)
  • Pier 39
  • Alcatrez Island
  • Lombard Street
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • China Town
  • Alamo Square
Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake (2 days)
  • Valley Visitor Center
  • Yosemite Falls
Zion National Park (1 day)
  • Mount Carnal Highway
  • Canyon Scenic Drive
Lake Powell (2 days)
  • Glen Canyon Dam
  • Wahweap bay
Grand Canyon (2 days)
  • Hermit Road
Las Vegas (3 days)
  • Shooting range
  • Hoover Dam
Los Angeles (4 days)
  • Knott's Berry Farm
  • Hollywood (Star Walk)
  • Universal Studios
  • Laguna Beach
I would really appreciate your advice.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things I read

Over the years I have collected an impressive collection of technology related feeds in my Google Reader account. Lately, I find myself neglecting most of my Google Reader subscriptions, and getting my information from a few specific sources. It just has become too much of a chore to sift out the really interesting posts.

That's why I have put my faith in the community to do the dirty work.


For .NET related posts, I mainly keep track of these two linkblogs.For other programming content that isn't biased towards the Microsoft stack, I also read following community driven link aggregators.How do you try to cope with the abundance of information out there?

Monday, August 8, 2011

High Hopes

Last week, I resigned from my job at Ferranti Computer Systems. Three years ago, days after receiving my Graduate Diploma in Applied Computer Science, I had my first real-world working experience at Ferranti Computer Systems.

The first project I was assigned to, was a project for the Antwerp fire department. Along with two other graduates and four seniors, I was thrown in at the deep end. I always had solid grades in school, and was fairly confident that I grasped the material I was taught. Was I misguided (!): it only took me a few days to realize that I knew nothing about building software. It immediately became clear that I had to start learning and probably would need to keep at it forever, if I ever wanted to get remotely good at this.

The Antwerp fire department project turned out to be an immense and complex project, which I have worked on throughout my whole career at Ferranti. Not always that intense though, in the meanwhile I have had a few smaller, more shippable projects and a very similar project for fire department Ghent.

Today, we are a few months into building a promising product for fire departments, which has the potential to be big (in Belgium). Although my role in this project was fun and fairly satisfying, I still felt like it was time for me to move on.

Many might think I'm a fool for throwing away a career where I was actually helping to save lives, building software. There are some frustrations that come along with building software for the public safety sector though.
Firstly, how perverted it might sound, this sector has a lot less money to spend on innovation compared to other, commercial sectors. This often leads to solutions which are not perfect, built to meet very tight deadlines.
Secondly, making progress is hard. Firefighters want to extinguish fires, liberate people... Most of them don't really care about software, making the adaptation and integration process painful. Although, I like to believe that this will change in the future. Our solution has been able to reduce station start-up times by 50%. It's impossible to ignore those numbers.

This isn't the real reason I quit my job though. Every sector has its own problems. The real motivation for me to change jobs was that I felt stuck. I have been working with the same team, on the same problem, mostly using the same technology stack, at the same desk, on the same chair for more than three years. This is not what I want, not yet. I want to solve other problems, meet new people, learn from others, try out new technologies and change chairs.

In September, I will start working for Euricom as a consultant, which should give me more opportunities to experience new things.

Will this job be able to give me personal satisfaction? I really don't know. Will I regret this decision? Probably not, I'd rather make the wrong decision than do nothing.

Anyway, I have high hopes.