Saturday, April 13, 2013

Programming, Project Management, and Time.. or lack thereof

Lately I've been tasked with managing projects at work. These are of both the programming and non - programming variety. They are all also handed off projects so I did not get to formulate the scope and plans of any of them.

Managing projects requires time, team work and proper resources as well as a cradle to grave comprehension of the needed results.
  Time? Not much!
  Team work? Who!
  Resources? Scarce!
  Knowledge? None transferred!

As you can guess, this situation is less than desirable and does not lend to favorable results. Trying to gather information from other team members is like pulling teeth. Trying to get access to necessary resources is near impossible. Managing projects without the ability to manage people, time or outcomes is like juggling water.

It just doesn't work!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I am back.

It has been about 18 months since my last post. In that time we've gone through another flood that destroyed our house for us but luckily we were able to sell our house and move on into a wonderful house with our children. The new house is high and dry, has a great lawn to play in, and is close to the nearby parks for Haylee and AJ.

Wendy and I are very happy in our new place and feel like getting out of our old place is a blessing. We have moved on and are happy to have done so.

Soon I will be starting a new chapter in my life and hopefully posting information about what I am learning and what I am doing with my new team. It is time for a change and I look forward to the challenges ahead as well as the rewards.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wah Wah

So here I sit listening to the symphony of sump pumps, dripping, and flowing water in our slowly filling basement. As predicted,  the spring showers are reeking havoc on our cellar's delicately balanced ecosystem. The torrential downpours that came with today's thunderstorms caused our street to become a river, our yard a marsh, and our lower concrete enclosed floor a swimming pool or lake. The pattern of water inlets has changed slightly but the results are the same.

I will be up most of the night playing the sentinel and guardian of our domain. I have been manually assisting the sink based pump in its tiring and, seemingly endless, battle against the raging waters forced back from the storm sewers for hours now.

The other sump is doing a fine job of moving the water that is quietly seeping through the myriad of cracks and holes in the floor back to the street every few seconds. Sadly, it gets just enough to turn it on and fill its vertical pipe before it turns off again - barely expelling a gallon at a time.

Reviewing this weather pattern leads me to believe that it will be hours before the storm drains can move enough water away from our area to pause it from intruding into our sanctum. The next couple of days call for similar weather patterns which means this will be a long week.

If the forecast is correct we could see a welcome break this weekend with cooler weather and some drying sunshine. I am certain it will not last though as we have weeks of rain ahead due to this late Spring weather pattern. With any luck though the river will be able to handle the influx of precipitation and the sun will do its best to give us a reprieve from this bad climactic turn of events.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Time With A Samsung Galaxy Tab

I have a Motorola Droid phone and have been loving it for over a year so I am very familiar with the Android OS. When I received the Samsung Galaxy Tab for testing I was hoping for something amazing but I see why it is not selling well. Here is my summary of my observations and opinions:

  • SIZE: The tablet is a good size as the seven inch screen gives you enough real estate for browsing and reading without being too large and cumbersome. It is a bit on the heavy side though for carrying around for long periods of time and it is too big for using one handed unless it is resting on a table or in your lap. For reading books, email and news or playing games the screen size was very nice.
  • SPEED: The tablet is faster than by Droid so this was a nice speed boost when surfing or running applications. The extra processor power and memory helped give applications and games (Angry Birds) a much smoother feel. Sadly the timing is bad on this model as there are dual core processor Android phones and tablets that blow it away. Overall though it was fast enough to do everything I wanted and it multitasks very well.
  • SYNCING: Really? I tried to connect the Tab to my Windows 7 computer expecting the standard plug and play experience but was instead forced to download and install a communication program for Samsung devices. Really? Even after installing it I could not get files copied off. I could see them just fine and navigate but it would hang when trying to copy them down. Admittedly these were large WAV files but it shouldn't have mattered. I had to disconnect it and remount multiple times because it would not take the Cancel I kept giving it. There is no reason for this. Plug and Play for SD cards is standard.
  • BATTERY: The Tab held a charge fairly well. I could sit through two hour meetings doing a recording, check emails, surf the web and play games for over 8 hours without the need to recharge. For low activity periods I could go 3 to 4 days without the need to charge. Charging is quick when connected to A/C but is negligent when connected via USB to a PC.
  • APPS: Running apps from the Android Market on the Tab was a decent experience. The increased speed and screen size helped to make the applications much more responsive and easier to see. Some apps were not written or updated to handle the large screen size and resolution though and would just center on the screen. Since I am used to my Droid screen this was not a horrible experience but hopefully developers will get around to improving their apps for all sizes of devices.
Final Thoughts: 
I think the Samsung Galaxy Tab makes a great toy as it is only a larger phone but without the phone calling capabilities. It does have a phone number that is used during activation of the device and can be used for setting up SMS but not for making phone calls. I am sure there are hacks out there for it or will be soon but natively it is a limited communication device. For that reason I could never see owning one as I need a phone, even though that is the thing I use the least on my Droid, I still need the capability. Since the Tab and other tablets are being pawned by cell companies they should include them as phones. I can't see holding it up to my ear regularly but I could definitely see using it as a conference call/speaker phone which is what I generally do anyway. 

I will be trying out the Motorola XOOM next. Hopefully the Honeycomb version of the Android OS will win me over but I do not see the need for having a second device with 95% capability overlap. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shut Your Mouth - Shush!

Another meeting? Really? OK. Time to quiet my phone. I don't want to be rude, right? But now I have to remember to unsilence it afterwards so I don't miss an important call. What a hassle. If only there were an application for that.

In the Android Marketplace there are a few but none as quick and cool as Shush! Ringer Restorer. Once installed you simply turn down the volume to silent or vibrate using the volume rocker buttons on your mobile phone. Shush! pops up a time wheel on which you can set the length of time to keep your phone silent. You can adjust it by sliding your finger around the wheel or using the plus and minus controls. Once the period of time is selected you can also set the volume of the phone when it comes out of the Shush! period.

New features recently added include the ability to turn off notifications and to select the color of the Shush! wheel that suits you best. Minor items but neat nonetheless.

I have used this application so many times now for meetings, nap time, movies and even bed time. You can Shush! your phone anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours making it very versatile.

You can turn off Shush! by tapping the notification, if displaying,  or by increasing the volume using the rocker buttons in the off chance your meeting ends ahead of schedule. (Yeah, right!)

Even though this is a one trick pony, as most of the best applications I use are, it fits well in my smartphone utility belt making volume change an easier task. The best part of course is that it is free.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A River Runs Through It

Last night when I decided to author this post I was thinking I was going to title it "here comes the rain again". Well, the rain has come and gone (Thankfully). After a restless night of listening for my water alarm I am now done with bailing the sink. The drains are now semi-useful. The water on the floor was sucked up by the vac and nearly dry. I decided to get a couple hours of sleep.

After waking up I went back downstairs to investigate. It appears that the water has now decided to come up through all the possible seams, cracks, and pores in the basement. Luckily my friends and I cleared out all the major furniture in the basement last night except for my washer, dryer, and of course my new hot water heater and furnace.

Now, as a river runs through the middle of my basement to the sump pump, I am back to checking regularly to make sure we don't flood out. Hopefully we can catch a break with some dry weather and not see the same flood waters we saw in 2006. Sadly though it looks as if more precipitation is on the way.

Spring is also on its way here and the prediction is we can plan on getting tons of rain throughout. What this means for my basement I dare not say. We have taken the precautions necessary to keep everything out of the basement again until we feel safe.

Keeping our sanity is another story as anxiety levels are high and no foreseeable end in sight. The water continues to pool as more and more H2O finds its way into what was once our sanctum. With any luck this particular event will pass within hours instead of days so we can enjoy the weekend and a short break before the next storm event.

UPDATE: We were able to hold back the nasty backed up sewage water from spilling out onto the floor otherwise it would have been much worse and required a full bleach treatment. As it was, I had to bleach my sink as it smelled horrific. The water that was pushing through the seams, cracks and pores didn't get too bad, but enough that it was good that we moved things out of the basement. If it had rained more on Friday as was predicted we would have easily had the 2 - 6 inches of water across the floor we saw in January 2006. I lost a day of work, a night of sleep and a couple pounds due to anxiety and exhaustion but at least we did not lose our washer, dryer, furnace and hot water heater like June 2006.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cloud Printing

Android OS developers are awesome. They develop some of the best applications out there and they answer a need very fast. This type of agile development is quite different than that of large software companies.

Case in point, Google released the ability to print from some of their web apps on mobile platforms to a PC connected printer using their Chrome browser (see previous post). Someone else found a way to send files to a DropBox account and use Google Cloud Print to get a hardcopy of the document. Another person ran with this idea and created an Android app called Cloud Print Beta that combines all these with a wizard to setup your phone with the ability to print from any app with a share or send option.

These innovative applications, as well as many others available, make for a veritable Swiss army knife used to customize your phone/tablet to your needs. Many of them for free in the Android Marketplace.

Thanks again to Google for creating the platform, keeping it open and making APIs freely and readily available.
Thanks to all the developers who take their time to create and update such a wide variety of applications.

And finally, thanks to all my fellow fans of the Android OS. We create the demand, use the apps, provide the feedback and support Google and the developers with our downloads, ratings, mentions and sharing of great apps with our circles of friends and coworkers and sometimes anyone who will listen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Technophobia No More

After many years of playing and working with technology I have seen a growing need for assistance and education in some of the standard daily digital dealings everyone is exposed to. Things that major manufacturers and software companies do not put much care into. Things like digital security and safety as well as basic education on using the technology we have collected around us.

Many companies ask you to pay outrageous prices for support from their squads of geeks and 'service' desks.
I feel that companies like to prey on the ignorance of the public when it comes to support and assistance with the digital devices they have been sold. Many companies ask you to pay outrageous prices for support from their squads of geeks and 'service' desks. If instead they offered a modicum of education only with changing some basic settings on your systems these services would probably not be needed. Companies spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) as a way to ensure extra money rolls their way even after the sale. Software companies no longer provide owners manuals and have made their products so loaded with functionality that end users are afraid to tread in the menus and options they are not familiar with. OEM computers come with Microsoft operating systems installed and configured in a way to guarantee viruses and malware become an issue as soon as your trial antivirus runs out. Your trial software nags at you to the point where you want to give them your credit card information just to get it to shut up.

In under 30 minutes you can configure your system to be safe and secure. With the purchase of a router for your high speed network you can have piece of mind. With a basic understanding of how to Google answers, you can educate yourself on whatever you are attempting.

I offer this to you so that you may overcome your technophobia and unlock the potential of the technology available to you. No matter what your comfortability level, technology is there to help you if you let it.

We will continue to add articles to this site to assist you in your journey to digital nirvana. If you have questions, Contact us. We will gladly attempt to find a solution for you and anyone else who has similar issues. We will also link you to other sites that can give you the answers you are looking for. After all, the Internet is a fantastic collection of available information for just about any subject.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I am taking the plunge and have put up my website to offer help with Technology for Life. The site is in its early stages. I am hoping to expand it with some free resources and information for people to make their digital dealings safer and more secure by focusing on best practices for personal technology use. I will also be available for consultations to assist in determining possible technology solutions for individuals and businesses. There is a great variety of free and low cost open source applications available to everyone to make everyday tasks easier and fun.

Stay tuned to my blog here and my site for more information. If you are in need of technology assistance please let me know. Consultations are free though I do take donations through PayPal. Implementation and training fees are reasonable and negotiable (service bartering is definitely an option).

If you would like to contribute or would be available to offer technology services shoot me an email and we can see what we can do to help promote each other. 90% of current technology relies on networking so feel free to spread the word.

Here is a summary of just some of the services available. If you have any comments, suggestions or requests please contact me or comment to this article on my blog.

Internet Presence

We at would like to assist you in putting your presence on the web. Whether you own a business, want to create a blog, or just want to post a photo gallery for your family we can help. We can also assist you in using social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We are strong proponents of Joomla! CMS and Google's wide variety of business and consumer products.
We use open source and free online sites to reduce your costs of getting on the web. Our fees are reasonable and our support is always available. Contact us for your free consultation.

Technology Solutions

Technology evolves at a quick pace and it is difficult to keep up with all the changing options. We would be happy to work with you to determine possible technology solutions for any situation. We can assist in finding the best computer, laptop, netbook, tablet or smartphone to fit your situation as well as printers.
Do you need help in setting up or using your technology devices? Do you need to find a software solution for your problem? Contact us.

Security and Online Safety

We provide free and low cost solutions for keeping your technology and data safe and secure from the hazards of an always connected world. Antivirus, firewalls, user security, parental controls, and mobile security can be daunting. Let us help you find the best solution and provide training in staying safe. Contact us for more information.

Training and Education

Learning all the nuances of software and hardware can be confusing and overwhelming. We can create training documentation, hold training webinars, do classroom or one-on-one education to assist you in gaining the necessary knowledge to utilize various technologies. We can also point you to many free and low-cost online documentation to get you started. Contact us.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Water Water Go Away

After eight passes with the wet/dry vacuum it looks like we may finally have a reprieve from the water woes. Basement is still damp so I have turned on the dehumidifier. Maybe tomorrow will be event free.

Looks like I am going to be scheduling some crack repairs this Spring. The foundation wall on the driveway side is getting quite bad.

It Lives

I really hate having to say this but Microsoft has done a good job with its Windows Live Essentials 2011 applications.

I have had so many bad experiences with Microsoft's one-off applications in the past that I was wary when downloading and installing Windows Live Movie Maker for a project at work. The download wasn't horrible but the install took quite a while - even on my fairly quick work system.

I started the application, dragged the video to the workspace and was able to start trimming right away. The responsiveness of the application on my 64-bit Windows 7 was very nice. I have used Movie Maker and other video editors in the past. They all seemed to take forever to process each task only to end up with the audio and video out of sync by the time the project was done. WLMM did hiccup on occasion but recovered well. In the end I had a very decent video with titles, captions, transition effects and credits. WLMM also allows you to add in audio clips, choose where they start and how long they play for as well as apply affects to the video to give it that old-timey look or many other looks.

The only things I think would make it better would be if you could split the audio from the video and zoom in on the video or parts of it for an extended period of time. These features were available in previous versions and are much missed now.

Additionally, you can add in static photos or images to your project. You can then add captions to your photos, some transition and visual effects as well as some audio to make for a great photo slideshow to share with friends and family.

Once done with a project WLMM allows saving to file, burning to DVD and even posting directly to YouTube and Facebook along with many other options.

Overall, this product is fantastic for both home and business use as long as the project does not require any of the missing major functions. Those can be done using other applications though if necessary.

I would recommend Windows Live Movie Maker to anyone who is running Windows Vista or Windows 7 with a decent amount of RAM and processing power. It will work on any system that meets the OS minimum specs but will run much better with 4GB of memory or more.

Water Water Everywhere

The season of wet is upon us. The thaw had started melting snow enough to flow into my basement through the cracks that are spread every year by the ice. I was hoping that it would be a slow thaw so it would only trickle in and dry up but that is not the case. This morning on my way out the door I peeked down the basement stairs only to find a growing puddle starting to wrap its way around the foot of the stairs.

Luckily, we are prepared for this so I grabbed by handy dandy wet/dry vac and got to work on tackling the pooling waters. I filled the vacuum and had to cart it over to my wash sink to empty it before I even got the majority of the water sucked up. This was my fault as I had drained out my sump hole the week before and forgot to empty the vac. Round two allowed me to get the rest of the water off the floor and from behind the pipe where it collects after coming in the crack in the wall. Being the considerate fellow that I am, I emptied the vacuum so my wife would have a fresh start for tackling the mess throughout the day.

The weather forecast calls for a steady rain throughout the day, diminishing later this afternoon. That means that we will still be clearing water out of our basement well into the evening. Hopefully it only stays on the one side of the house and does not back up the storm and sewage lines into our wash sink. Either way, we will both be stressing all day about it and with the warming trend we are having it will probably be a frequent event for the next month or so. ARGH!

from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Water Woahs! Great Greening.

Johnson City municipal water supply is the hardest water I have ever had to deal with. We have had so many issues with our faucets and plumbing crusting over from the lime scale that we should have invested in CLR. We have had our faucets replaced in both the bathroom and kitchen sinks. We have had the pipes replaced in both rooms as well. My wife is diligent in her battle with the hard water stains in the bathroom but the kitchen has been a tougher war.
As a solution we decided it was time to invest in a water softener. At the same time we decided it would be nice to have an energy efficient tankless water heater. After shopping around, doing some research and talking to some people we contacted Auchinachie Plumbing. This past Monday Auchinachie installed a Navien hot water heater & Kinetico water softener & fixed our other minor plumbing issues. It took about 8 hours for the two service technicians to get it all installed, adjusted, tested and the other items fixed but it was worth it.
I have to say that I am loving the non-chlorinated softer water. My wife really enjoys the fact that she has hot water for as long as it takes to wash all the dishes, take showers and do both the kids baths. Having my bathroom sink and bath drain properly is a plus. These were really worth the investment and will hopefully be worth it for years to come.
I still have my old water heater in the basement until I find a home for it. Perhaps I will put it on Craigslist. Out with the old and in with the new.
Since we moved into our house we have completed a bunch of energy efficiency improvements:
  • Replaced the refrigerator
  • Replaced the washer and dryer
  • Replaced the furnace
  • Replaced the hot water heater
We are getting greener every day and saving money in the long run because of it. Our electric and gas bills are fairly low compared to those around us. The investments are definitely paying off. The next big investment will be a hybrid vehicle of some sort for me to drive to work during the cold months of the year. During the summer I even ride my bike to work to save on fuel costs and to get excercise. I would not consider myself a green freak but I do appreciate the benefits it has for me, my family and the earth around us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SuperUser For Me and My Droid

The lifespan on my Motorola Droid is dwindling. The Droid 2 and Droid X have been out for a while. The Droid X2 and Droid 3 are on the way. The Motorola Droid Bionic is soon to follow. Oh, what to do with my dusty Droid?

Hmm.. let's start hacking. I know that there have been ways to root the Droid for quite some time but I have been trying to behave. After all, it is my primary means of communication. What would I do if I bricked it?

Luckily, I was successful with using SuperOneClick to root my phone. After rooting I then decided to over clock the slow CPU using SetCPU. Both of these wonderful apps are available from xda developers. All I had to do was sign up, download them and follow the instructions. I had a couple of minor issues with SuperOneClick but these were resolved by following the discussions in the forum. Thank you xda.

My phone runs quick (800 Mhz) and smooth. The problems I was having with it slowing down to a snails pace is resolved. My applications respond better. Overall my experience is much better now.

Modding is not something everyone should attempt. You need patience and persistence as well as the ability to follow directions carefully. That being said, I will be looking forward to getting my next Android phone so I can mod the heck out of my Droid by installing custom ROMs. Hopefully it lasts that long.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mashed Bo Tay Toes

I am so ecstatic with the current state of technology and equally frustrated with it. Working with government agencies who are trying to create applications using old technology and procedures is a disappointing process. I know it is tough to stay on top of current technology with the speed at which it innovates but that is no reason to not try. Luckily for us these groups are starting to listen to their target audience about what is truly needed and what we can do without. That being said, the journey is still painful.

Current technologies can work so well together when mashed up utilizing free and open source APIs provided by companies that are coming up with the innovations. Being exposed to so many varied and powerful web technologies makes me a little biased regarding the current state of applications and sites we are forced to use to report data and set up campaigns. I am not saying that I have all the answers or even that my suggestions are all good but I would like to see each agency hire someone to assist them in determining a direction for their projects to go that would access current technologies, benefit end users and be easy to integrate for their programming staff.

A simple thing like grabbing the Google Maps API to integrate real world GPS coordinates into a data collection application to populate geographic routing information when we have to do mobile dispensation would be invaluable. Using the same API to create an efficient delivery route when you have all the addresses you need to distribute items to would also be outstanding.

Mashing up multiple applications to create a complete solution for a problem is the direction the government needs to be headed towards. Creating these one off applications that cannot even talk to each other even though they have overlapping data pools is outrageous and a huge waste of time and resources for their target populations. I know government is not the only group in this situation but with the reduction in staff and the threat to cut services it is the one that will affect the most people. If only they had started their planning for programs and applications with this in mind the cuts in staff would not have hurt so much.

Where we go from here is uncertain but I am hoping to work much closer with our various government agencies so we can get their systems talking to each other. This will reduce time and errors caused by multiple data entries for the same information as well as progressing towards usable solutions for staff and better serve the general population. At some point agencies may even progress to using HTML5 web applications that can be scaled and used across multiple devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks and PCs.