Jack of all languages, master of none

23 11 2009

I have had experience with several programming languages over the last few years, especially in the last two days. So far this weekend, I have used ActionScript, C, Objective-C, Assembly language, PHP, Ruby, and even TIBasic. However, I feel I am lacking in many of the languages. I feel confident in Ruby and somewhat so in PHP and Obj-C. For the most part, though I have lacked focus. For the moment, I am just trying everything out.

Something that I have learned over the past few months while searching for a job is to specialize. In the tech sector, especially, specialization will help you. The problem lies in making the right decision on what to specialize in.

Indianapolis may be trying to be the Midwestern Silicon Valley, but they are far from it at the moment. There are only so many entry-level programming jobs in the area to go around. Often, they are looking for skills like ASP.NET or C# because most of the development that is going on in central Indiana is Microsoft based.

This can leave you with a big problem on your hands if you are only interested in using easier-to-use open source programming frameworks, like CodeIgniter with PHP or Ruby on Rails. This can leave you in a difficult position if you are trying to make a living in an area where none of these technologies are being used by local development shops.

If you are interested in becoming a developer, talk to local developers in the area where you want to live after graduation. Find out what they are developing in, be it PHP, Rails, .NET, or something else. If no one is developing in what you want to develop in, you have two options. The first is you could go freelance, which would be very difficult, especially immediately after leaving college. The second option is to move to an area where there is a development shop developing in the language/framework that you want to use.


It’s obsolete when I say it is

23 11 2009

When does something become obsolete? I suppose the simplest definition of the word is when that thing becomes completely useless.

I collect old Macs. The oldest one that I own is a Macintosh SE which was manufactured in 1988. It is nearly as old as I am, yet it still functions perfectly. While are networking cards available for the model of Mac, this Mac does not have one. The computer cannot connect to the Internet directly, which we generally consider to be the benchmark of usefulness for modern computers.

The Internet, however, is not the only way a computer can become useful. I used my Mac SE to type out this blog post. Granted, it was necessary to transfer the file to a more up-to-date computer with a high speed Internet connection and blogging software. All I needed to write this blog was a 21-year old computer, an 800L floppy disk, Microsoft Word 4.0, and an ADB keyboard and mouse.

My attachment to old things does not end there. I have been driving a 1986 Honda Accord for the last five years. More than three of those years were spent commuting twenty-five miles per day between home, work, and campus. I have not moved on to a car that was built more recently because there has been no need for me to. The car that I drive right now is still perfectly suited for the task that it was built for.

My car consistently fails to break down and always gets me to where I need to go. My old Macs provide me with a distraction-free place to get some writing done. I suppose my point is that it does not make sense to throw something out or replace it if it still has utility.

New media douchebaggery

22 11 2009

I will be plain here. I do not understand how people can call themselves “new media experts” when “new media” has been around in its present form for four or five years. To me, it is like being a guy living in Detroit in 1910 and caliming to be an expert on the automobile industry.

I follow self-proclaimed new media experts on Twitter because they can often provide valuable insights and knowledge into marketing and making connections. I love these people. I think they’re great and I have a lot of respect for them but every time I hear someone talk about how much of an expert, it makes me cringe a little on the inside. It feels as though they are just hopping on a tastefully decorated trendy bandwagon.

Lewis Black said, “I’m the greatest fucker here and all you sniveling shits would die with out me. Hahahaha.” Granted, he was talking about America’s general attitude towards the international community, but I feel it applies here. There is a difference between talking about the merits of social media and what you have learned about it so far and trumping up social media as practically the second coming of Christ.

I apologize if I seemed harsh. It is frustrating, however, to see people referring to themselves as experts in an area that is still in its first few years of existence. “Student of Social Media,” perhaps or “New Media Connoisseur.” Those terms would be a bit less grating. I realize that I am not in a position to tell anyone how to brand themselves. It just makes me cringe to hear people refer to themselves as experts in a field that is still being shaped.

Testing MarsEdit

7 11 2009

I am trying out MarsEdit. I like it so far. It even works with wordpress.com blogs.

More details to come.

Freshly painted boat

Review: iPhone Application Sketch Book

28 10 2009

Dean Kaplan recently sent me a free iPhone Application Sketch Book. Before I go on, I would like to clear up a couple of things. First, I did not get this book for review purposes. I got it for winning an online drawing. Second, this is not an iPhone application. It is an actual book. I have had people be mistaken when I tell them I recent got an “iPhone sketch book.”

After winning the contest, I received the book a few days later via Amazon. App Sketchbook 2I was impressed right off the bat with the quality of the book. Despite being a few sheets of spiral bound paper, it feels like something I can throw in my backpack and carry around with me. There is plenty of margin space to jot down notes about your interface’s paper prototype. The screen is life size and will give an accurate picture of what your application will look like when it is compiled.

I have used it to prototype the interface for an application that I working on and I enjoyed using it.

While this is a great thing to just carry around and work in, there is a disadvantage to having a notebook like this. There are 100 iPhone sketching pages. Eventually, you will run out of paper. That is why I think that keeping a good stencil around is a good call. Do your rough sketches by hand, then move on to the stencil, then put your finalized UI designs into the iPhone Application SketchBook. I recommend this design process because it forces you to go over the same design again and again before it is finally implemented and put in from of users. More importantly, it will help you conserve precious pages in your dedicated UI sketch book.

Overall, this is an excellent product. If you have not already purchased one for $9.99 before midnight on October 29, 2009, then you are out of luck. However, I believe Kapsoft will return with a new and improved sketchbook. My opinion of this product: highly excellent, useful, and practical.

Thoughts on Apple’s new tablet

7 10 2009

Rumors have been flying about for many years that Apple will do a tablet device that will be like a scaled-up iPhone. Now the news comes out that Apple’s manufacturer in China, Foxconn, is producing them for launch in the first quarter of 2010. I have to say, this only strengthens my feelings on this topic. My feelings are as such:

STOP TALKING ABOUT THE FUCKING APPLE TABLET PLEASE!!! I have been hearing podcast after podcast where pundits and others who I deeply respect go on and on about a device that has been talked about but never produced or even hinted at. They have been creating this device and the real-world need for it in their distorted minds.

This sick obsession with a purely theoretical product is hindering efforts to produce meaningful, serious discourse through new media. I can no longer listen to a Mac- or iPhone-related podcast without a third of the conversation dominated by conspicous wanking over details of a product that hasn’t even been announced yet. Blogs are only marginally better. They still go on and on about the Apple tablet. This is probably because prolific podcasters typically make for prolific bloggers.

Let it go, you guys. If Apple announces a tablet next year or in five years, then that is when it will happen. Of course, if it does come out, the bloggers and podcasters who so enthusiastically fantasized about it will criticize it for its perceived shortcomings.

If the tablet is announced, then it is announced. Until then, just let it go and be patient, PLEASE.

Impressions from Snow Leopard

2 09 2009

I bought my Family Pack of Snow Leopard on Saturday, August 29, the day after Snow Leopard was launched. It came out with much less fanfare than Leopard or Tiger. It was a little diasppointing to get to the Apple Store at 1oam, when it opened, and not see a line outside the store. There were no fanboys taking off work and lining up outside the store. It may have been easier for Apple to get those lines again if they had done a bit more hyping of the product and had arranged for their retail stores to be closed until 6pm like they did with Leopard, they may have had more of a turnout.

The installation went smoothly. I did a simple upgrade from Leopard with no issues. It took about 40 minutes on my iMac and about an hour on my MacBook. I attribute this time difference to the relative hardware speeds of the two computers. Make sure you have a complete, up-to-date backup of any system that you are going to upgrade.

The lack of fanfare and excitement at the Apple Store perfectly complimented the product itself. While Snow Leopard is an impressive upgrade, it did not have the whizbang feeling of upgrading to its predecessor. Moving from Tiger to Leopard was much more noticeable. Snow Leopard is a very subtle upgrade from Leopard. Many of the new features and upgrades are under the hood and not readily identifiable. The interface remains mostly unchanged. However, Apple did make some changes to Exposé that made it much more usable. It is noticeably faster. After installing on both my iMac and MacBook, I got about 15 gigabytes back on both of their hard drives.

I really liked what Apple did with Exposé. When looking at only the windows open for a given application, all other windows are hidden, rather than appearing beneath the active windows. This helped with much of the visual clutter. Also, when looking at all windows in Exposé, one can click on an active application’s dock icon and all of that application’s windows will be brought front and center and the others will temporarily disappear. Exposé will also now show any windows that may have been minimized and sitting in the dock. It also works across Spaces, showing all windows, regardless of which space they are in. I think this could be improved by visually tagging each of these windows to show which space they are from.

I got back 15 gigabytes on both of my computers’ hard drives. This is a not just a result of Apple slimming down its operating system and eleminating much of the clutter that is no longer needed since PowerPC support was dropped. The OS counts kilobytes differently now. The OS used to count a kilobyte as 1,024 bytes, while the marketing materials showed it to be 1,000 bytes. Snow Leopard counts a kilobyte as 1,000 bytes. So, if you bought a 60GB drive, for example, your Mac will show you that you have a 60GB drive.

Leopard was pretty snappy to begin with, but Snow Leopard just feels a bit faster. This is not exactly somethign that can be quantified outside of a lab. Maybe it is all in my head. It just feels faster. However, there was an instance about two days after I installed SL. My iMac got really slow and unresponsive. I was forced to force quit all of my applications and reboot. This has been my only problem so far.

Overall, this is a pretty good release. It seems stable enough for a first version product. It has certainly succeeded at refining and speeding up the Leopard experience. If you think you could benefit from things like 64-bit mode, a few more GB on your hard drive, or a refined user experience, then go for it. It is only $29 for a Single User license and $49 for a Family Pack, good for up to five Macs.

SL Articles on TUAW

John Siracusa’s exhaustive 23-page SL review

Apple’s official SL page