Archive for December, 2009

Microsoft Virtual Business Cards Available

If you’re a Microsoft Certified Professional, there is a new tool you can use in addition to transcript sharing and logo-building.

business card holderIt’s called “MCP Virtual Business Card” and allows you to create a webpage with your certifications, websites, and other related professional information.  You can embed the link or javascript to your card in any webpage.  It’s mainly intended for online media (social networks, blogs, etc.). The MSLEARN blog has more information on how to use the various ID benefits: BornToLearn Blog

You can access the VBC site here: Microsoft VBC site (you’ll need to use your Microsoft Live credentials to log in).

To see an example, check out my cards : Full Profile Page or  Interactive Card Page

Oh yes- have a happy and safe New Years!

Teching Across the Country

Portable technology can make traveling much more effective, efficient, and enjoyable than anything possible just a couple years ago.  Smartphones, 3G cellular, wi-fi networks, and web services are revolutionizing how we plan and execute personal travel.  After reading my experiences, comment below on your thoughts or experiences using technology while traveling.

travelHere’s some products and internet services we used during a recent week long trip to California.

  • Apple iPhone:   We all know what an incredibly useful  “portable brain” the iPhone is.  The goal was to use it exclusively for logistics and looking up information on the go.  From trip itineraries to directions to neighborhood data it worked…pretty good.  The biggest problem was getting a reliable 3G signal in the Bay Area, and AT+T was spotty at best.  Fortunately, there were plenty of wi-fi options available.
  • TripIt (www.tripit.com):  This company has an amazing free service- simply forward your travel itineraries to the website as you receive them and it parses them into a customized, time sorted list for you to refer to with tons of useful information and related links added.  The smartphone application is particularly useful because you can refer to it anywhere and update it easily.  This has replaced pages of printed itinaries and sticky notes.
  • Handbrake (www.handbrake.fr): This PC application allows you to easily convert video to various formats, including the iPhone.  This in conjunction with iTunes content provided hours of video diversions.  Watching video on the iPhone still isn’t perfect (some sort of holder would be nice)- but the ability to have travel notes and entertainment in one portable package is appealing.
  • Audible audio books (www.audible.com): I listened so several Audible books on the iPhone while traveling and found it a fun experience to lay back and just let the words flow into my brain, erasing hours of boredom.
  • MotionX GPS for iPhone (gps.motionx.com):  This iPhone application provides voice turn by turn directions for a couple dollars per month.  We used it to navigate all around Northern California.  It worked well but lacked live traffic information.
  • Yelp (www.yelp.com): This is a community based, location aware review site in which members  submit reviews for any business or attraction.  You can look up nearby restaurants and such on your iPhone and read useful reviews and tips for the businesses and get directions.  Fantastic!  We used it all the time to find restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, hotels, and bars which looked interesting.
  • Weather Channel iPhone (http://www.weather.com/mobile/pda/iphone/):  We used this app to track incoming rain fronts in California to help plan our activities.  On the way home we tracked a large snowstorm to help prepare for the trip home.
  • Google Maps (traffic view maps.google.com):  The Google maps traffic view was very useful planning trips around the bay area.  Unfortunately due to the poor 3G coverage, we also had to refer to regular AAA paper maps for some navigation!
  • Zillow.com (www.zillow.com):  This is a location aware real estate app (available on the iPhone).  As we walked around various neighborhoods, Zillow was useful to compare house values and houses for sale based on our location.
  • Southwest.com (www.southwest.com): We used the mobile enabled website to check into our flight and get a coveted “A” zone boarding pass.

One thing which technology didn’t help- the tangled mess of cords needed to charge our cell phones and laptops :-)   I look forward to really good wireless charging stations just now coming onto the market.

Which websites and applications do you find useful while traveling?  Comment below and share your thoughts.

Don’t Call Me Shirley

People in other professions have fairly concrete titles which indicate what they do.  Think surgeon, math teacher, architect, or president.  The computer field is somewhat different in that I’ve been doing basically the same thing (developing custom software on Microsoft platforms) for years and have been called software engineer, consultant, contractor, programmer, computer scientist, systems engineer, developer, and systems analyst (with various numbers involved even!).

None of those really capture the art and science of programming accurately.  Even after decades of research, discussions, methods, and patterns,  working in computers is definitely not a science with well defined rules and methods but it also isn’t an art with zero defined rules.

It’s a mixture of both and one of the reasons I think the field is so difficult and intimidating.  It involves a high degree of something like ordered creativity- being able to recombine patterns and ideas into something which is unique for each person but able to solve problems many have.  You don’t have to be a genius to do this, but not many people have the insight and patience to work like that (and of course can stand endless hours in boring cubicle farms…a topic for a future post).

Of all the terms, I like “software engineer”.  It best encompasses the ideas of structure and creation with the “software” modifier indicating that yes, no matter how hard we try, programming is fuzzy, malleable, and adaptable.

Starting Things Up

keyboard with worldWelcome to my blog…I’m a software engineer/consultant.  You’d think I’d have more internet presence by now, being a “computer professional”, but it seems only lately various technologies have become easy enough and integrated enough to spark my interest. Before now, it just seemed like this would take too much effort and time to be worthwhile.

I’m not too interested in the hobbyist aspects of web hosting, blogging, and social networking…instead of focusing on the mechanics of all those things, I want to focus on the actual goal- publishing useful content and having fun doing so. The intertwined world of facebook, twitter, one-click websites, digital content distribution, gadgets and smartphones is converging to a point where ideas can be shared easily with many, many people….and more and more people are joining every day.

I hope to use this blog to share ideas and experiences on starting a new website, working in the technology consulting field, and just generally using technology to enhance life and have fun.

Here’s my professional background: Linked In Profile

Thanks for joining, please enjoy and provide comments!