Thursday, September 29, 2011

A real developer knows when to pull the plug

My mini-website will no longer be available online after tomorrow.

I slapped it together over a weekend, trying out WebMatrix, which turned out to be the perfect companion for building small things.

A pleasant surprise was the mention of 'A Real Developer' by the guys at Channel9. This made the traffic go through the roof for a few days.

A few months later the site was a ghosttown. But I don't mind, I even predicted this. It never had the ambition to deliver real value. I was more than happy to deliver five minutes of entertainment.

To have a memento, I uploaded the source to GitHub. Remember, it's far from clever or impressive. However, I do think it can serve as a nice introduction-by-example to WebMatrix.

I committed the latest database as well, so now you can read all the quotes (even the bad ones), and start your own t-shirt business ;).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Comfortably numb

Something that can bother me tremendously is being surrounded by people who are in a constant state of being comfortably numb. People who don't welcome change, try to scare away new concepts and are just too much at home in their comfort zone. Some are perfectly happy filling their days keeping up appearances of being busy. They don't care about self-improvement, but only care about augmenting their paychecks by accumulating as much legacy baggage as possible, with the sole intention of being perceived as an irreplaceable asset to the company, whilst not having to leave their comfort zone. These people also have the tendency to shy away from responsibility and commitment. They are satisfied with doing just enough to not draw any attention to themselves.

It's really tempting to just go along, and follow. After all, it's in human nature to strive for comfort: the path of the least resistance. If you are reading this blog, you probably already belong to the group of people who care about their craft, and are aiming for something more than the status quo. I applaud you. For you, this post only serves as a reminder that you should constantly evaluate your current position and be honest with yourself: Am I still moving forward?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Building small things

Due to the nature of things we build in our day to day job, writing software can wear out even the most fit of us.

Most software jobs make you constantly deal with complexity. The amount of things which can lead to a complex software project are immense. A poor first design, and failure to redesign. External dependencies, which seem to behave different every time around. Or just the complexity of the problems itself.
You are almost always working in a team, which can be exhausting as well. If the team doesn't share your passion and you have a hard time getting your ideas across, you will get frustrated, real soon. Add some coroporate politics to the mix and you'll be on your way to Paranoia.

It feels like I'm turning this into a rant, but I'll stop right here, you get where I'm going at. Building software in the real world can be hard. Very hard.

I like to think building something small on your own once in a while can be extremely liberating. It can help you keep your sanity and not lose your passion towards software. You pick what to build. Something small. Something new. Something built with your favorite tools, on your favorite platform. Something that can be shipped. Something which takes only you and your machine.

Having problems finding something meaningful to make? Look around you, the most trivial problem can lead to a satisfying little sideproject. Look for things that bother you, and try making them bother you less. Listen to others, maybe you can help solve their problems. Who cares if it already exists in one way or the other? Look for something that looks fun. And just build it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Once upon a time in the West

The girlfriend and I returned from our West Coast roadtrip yesterday morning.

We found this trip to be an unforgettable experience, which made us even more hungry for future travels.

This blog will return to business as usual, with mainly technical content and opinions.

Here is an overview of our posts exploring the West Coast:

Once upon a time in the West..

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

City of fallen angels

After seeing the celebrities at Madame Tussaud's in Las Vegas, we went for the real deal.

Turns out Hollywood is a lot less glamourous than we expected. The Walk of Fame isn't a lot different from any other gray sidewalk, paved with long-forgotten stars. The famous Hollywood sign isn't even lit a night, making the contrast with Beverly Hills at the other side of town even bigger. 

Maybe there's another side to Hollywood that we haven't seen, since we only stayed for two days, one of which at the Universal Studios. Here we took a sneak peek behind the scenes of movies like The Fast and the Furious, Jaws and Jurassic Park. We also drove through Wisteria Lane and other generic-built shooting sets.

This will probably be our last post from the US. We will spend our last few days driving the coast line back to the Bay Area, to depart there on Thursday.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

Driving back into the desert after our breakfast, with Las Vegas in the rear-view mirror, we secretly feel a little relieved to be heading back to the real world. The cocktail of fake pyramids, indoor jungles, Paris landmarks, castles and volcanoes became a little nauseating. With hotels and casinoes resembling labyrinths, designed to get people trapped inside, it feels liberating to drive through the wide open landscape again.

Some of the things we enjoyed the most were the late nights walking the Strip, watching free shows, standing on top of the Stratosphere and posing with the wax celebs at Madame Tussaud's. 

Although we had a great time, Vegas probably only shows its full potential when you're a highroller.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Edge of eternity

We all know the Grand Canyon as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, today I learned why. As one of the locals described: 'Pretty amazing for a big hole in the ground'. 

Being the closest to the south entrance, we visited the South Rim of the canyon. A trip to the visitor center taught us there were no easy hikes (except for the going down part), so we didn't attempt at one. A hike down the canyon and back up is a two day endeavor. A shuttle bus took us along the scenic route, dropping us off at three viewpoints. Standing on the edge, stunned by the view, we were accompanied by some California Condors circling above us. However, their view must have been more impressive, being able to stare down right into the 4000 feet (1200m) deep canyon. 

After visiting the park, we went to see the National Geographic Grand Canyon movie at the IMAX. This film revealed parts of the inner canyon, following in the footsteps of John Wesley Powell. The show is a cheap alternative to an expensive helicopter flight through the canyon.

Tomorrow morning we will return to the more civilized (?) man-made world: Las Vegas.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

From Glen to Grand

Yesterday, we drove from Saint-George to Page, Arizona. The Pipe Springs National Monument happened to be on our way, so we made a stop. Turned out there wasn't much to see. A 30-minute ranger-led tour made it worthwhile though. During the tour through the Winsor Castle, she told us about the Mormons who used to live there. The Fort manager, also head of their Mormon church, married 58 women, resulting in plenty of children to work the Fort.

Arriving at Page, we hiked the Horseshoe Bend trail, which ended in one of the most amazing views we've seen so far. To cool off, we took a swim in Lake Powell, the reservoir above the Glen Canyon Dam

Today we took a guided tour through Antelope Canyon, which resulted in some interesting pictures. 

At the moment we're in Flagstaff, which will be our launching point to the Grand Canyon tomorrow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rusty rocks

We started the day with a short drive to Zion National Park. On our way we came across some colossal rock formations, layered with different shades of red. Since the park is almost entirely car free, we took the shuttle bus along the scenic route. We got off at different stops, to take short hikes to the park's natural treasures. The Emerald Pools were first up, followed by the Weeping Rock and a riverside walk to the Narrows, which are architected by the Virgin river. Wading in the river gave us some much needed refreshment after a long day of hiking.

Our next destination is Lake Powell.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sands of Nevada

Yesterday evening we spent the night in a town called Tonopah, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. Today we continued our trip to Zion (Utah), driving hundreds of miles through the Nevada desert, getting sunburned on the way. There was not a soul in sight, except for cattle crossing the road, who seemed to be waiting for us to pass to say hello. 

We just arrived at St. George, which is a launching point to Zion National Park.

So, not much to report today. Anyway, here are a few random pictures of our drive through the Nevada desert.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yosemite skyscrapers

These skyscrapers are, other than the enormous mountains, the redwood sequoia on top of them. Some of these trees are the same height as a thirty story building, which is higher than the Statue Of Liberty. It's almost impossible to capture these giants on camera. 

After a short hike between the sequoia, we drove off to Yosemite Valley to discover the Yosemity Falls. Although the falls must be more impressive in Winter, they were still worth visiting. 

Today we drove through Yosemite National Park once again, this time on our way to cross the border to Nevada. On the route, we came across breathtaking swirling roads. 

Just before crossing the border to Nevada, we stopped at two Mono Lake vista points.

Tomorrow, we are continuing our trip to Zion