Tuesday, March 30

Philly Code Camp - Gold Sponsor!

I'm happy to announce that not only will I be attending Philly Code Camp 2010.1, but my new employer, Apprenda, will be there as Gold Sponsor, specifically of the Architecture track.

We may or may not be doing a presentation on SaaSGrid. Unfortunately we got our ducks in a row at a bit of the last minute on this, though we are eagerly awaiting a last-minute presentation slot to open up, whether that be due to a presenter's sickness, travel difficulties or sudden enrichment of their bank account. *cough* ;) As it is we missed NYC Code Camp 4 and New England Code Camp 13 :( We are also looking for future Code Camp sponsorship and presentation opportunities!

I believe we are going down to Philly the evening of Friday the 9th, and possibly considering staying as long as overnight Saturday. I don't believe I've ever been to/near Philly before ... perhaps driven on a nearby bypass?

One more note, SaaSGrid may make an appearance at CloudCampNYC on April 20th as well. TBD.

Sunday, March 28

Philosopher: Why we should ditch religion - CNN.com

I couldn't agree more!

Philosopher: Why we should ditch religion - CNN.com

"We should be talking about real problems, like nuclear proliferation and genocide and poverty and the crisis in education," Harris said in a recent interview at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. TED is a nonprofit group dedicated to "ideas worth spreading."

Wednesday, March 24

One thing Tech Valley lacks

Having grown up just inside the development-restricted, redneck-populated, overwhelmingly large and backward Adirondack Park spending my teen years playing football, causing trouble and trying to sell websites to small business owners who often didn't have dialup Internet service, or, in many cases, even a computer on-site at their business, I've seen a lot of positive change, real progress, in this relatively recently bemonikered "Tech Valley" region. Broadband just about everywhere that really matters. Computers in every shop. A website for everyone. A big semiconductor foundry of an alleged job-mill in our backyard.

One major piece of the tech worker and tech industry growth puzzle that Tech Valley still falls flat on however is workspace. Office space is often underserved and overpriced for independent, often mobile tech professionals, or startups and other small businesses that may work in small and/or remote teams and have little or no need for a permanent office. And no, neither Panera nor Starbucks comes anywhere close to cutting it. What Albany needs, what Tech Valley and its population and ability to innovate would benefit from, are coworking spaces.

What is coworking? Perhaps you've heard of hotdesking? The act of borrowing someone else's desk for a period of time? Envision a flexible office space of nothing but hotdeskers. Tenants, if you will, who might be there for a few hours, the day, or maybe 9-5 (or 9-9, or 5-9, you get the picture) all week long. Coworking spaces are dedicated workspaces, sometimes run as clubs or co-ops, or on a subscription basis. Flexibility is key!

Nobody loudly placing orders at the register. No kid kicking the back of your seat. No squealing babies. No delinquent punks eyeballing your gear. Chairs, desks, tables, whiteboards, often conference rooms. Some coworking spaces provide laptops and computers for rent. Any coworking space worth its salt provides coffee makers and solid Internet connectivity, the best providing both RJ-45 jacks for gigabit LAN and 802.11 for WiFi.

Office supplies are often available, sometimes as part of the package, sometimes for a fee. Scanners, faxes and printers are commonplace. Some of the nicer spaces also have high-end videoconferencing gear.

Not only are coworking spaces great for getting work done at an affordable rate, or having team or even client meetings, but coworking venues also typically offer a great networking scene as well. Similarly motivated and hardworking people with often complementary capabilities -- that's nothing but win.

Coworking spaces in metro areas tend to pop up in the unused or underutilized space of established companies, though that's not a rule by any means -- Rochester's first coworking space has sprung up in a loft I used to party in in my western NY days. Any space with the appropriate zoning and infrastructure, or the potential to cost effectively add or augment the required infrastructure, will do. (And this includes parking in cities where mass transit is less common.)

Albany has plenty of empty real estate ... do we have enough motivated, semi-mobile professionals who would know what to do with coworking space if they had it available? Does Tech Valley have what it takes to genuinely bootstrap and nurture its homegrown talent, expertise and productivity pools in areas that will matter most in the coming decades?

UPDATE: Laura has created a fan page for Coworking in Albany on Facebook.

UPDATE2: Laura's blog entry on this topic.

UPDATE3: The coworking pbwiki -- I'd be remiss to continue to neglect linking to this, as Laura has in her post. Great info from providers and consumers of space, as well as a listing of worldwide coworking spaces!

Monday, March 22

Book Review: One Second After

One Second After One Second After by William R. Forstchen


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
As my friend Mathew Koeneker wrote in August, I was a little surprised to be finding myself reading a book with a foreword by Newt Gingrich. I was even more surprised that I actually read the foreword, which, perhaps to my shame, I tend to ignore in most books that are not of particular import to me.

That's where Mat and I's outlooks diverge.

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

I didn't find One Second After to be particularly worthwhile. It failed to rise to the level of interesting until page 161 or so, where a half-hearted patriotic quote is to be found.

It did not raise my awareness of EMP, nor my alarm level. In this day and age there are so many threats, and we have no idea what our government is or is not doing to protect us. Perhaps the politician and Navy officer responsible for, respectively, the foreword and afterword, know something Joe Plumber does not? Or could it be that perhaps this disgraced and fined politician and mere Navy captain are not as well-informed as they'd like to be these days, and are simply trumpeting an issue for the sake of selling a book? That is what this book leaves me asking, not, "Are we doing enough to protect ourselves from EMP?" (Then again, I think the planet could use a good die-off ...)

Sure, I teared up a tiny bit at the death of the dog, and then the daughter, but to be frank, the plot and pace of this work was pretty awful.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, March 5

Microsoft Roadshow Returns to Tech Valley

Microsoft Northeast Roadshow

The Microsoft Northeast Roadshow is back in town, this time Friday, March 12th at the Troy Hilton Garden inn. Developer Evangelist Jim O'Neil has a blog post with further details.

Coffee: I prefer to buy 'local,' but ...

I prefer to buy local/do business locally when possible, but almost invariably I order my coffee online from remote (to varying degrees) vendors.

Case in point: I would love to buy my coffee from Uncommon Grounds, an Albany/Saratoga coffee house, roaster, bagel shop venture with two locations. I believe they're about 18 years old. They've recently become fairly social media savvy; I don't know specifically how long they've been online in general, but they seem to have a decent enough online coffee & t-shirt store.

Uncommon Grounds seems to have a strong following in the local community. Having been to the Saratoga location in the distant past, and perhaps once to the Albany location in more recent times, I personally don't have any particular attachment to their physical locations. I don't eat out (or get out, for that matter) often, and when I most urgently need to restock my bean inventory, (during code crunch time) I need it to be as quick and painless as possible, while interrupting my workflow as little as possible as well. This typically leads to online ordering.

When I order coffee, first and foremost I want fresh-as-possible, quality beans of varying roasts that arrive as quickly as possible. Close behind that, I prefer organic, fairtrade, preferably shadetree grown beans. After that it's all about price and customer service.

I just placed my second order with Porto Rico Importing Co. out of NYC, (three hours away) tipped to me by Ed Costello. (thanks again Ed!) I placed an order in February on a Sunday, and it arrived Tuesday morning. The beans were, while maybe not the absolute best I've ever had, pretty darn good. They've been in business some 103 years, their website isn't anything flashy, and as far as I can tell, they're not particularly active when it comes to social media. Their store has much more diverse offerings than coffee and t-shirts however, including filters, syrups and machines.

While I prefer to do business locally, I, currently an independent consultant with irregular income, have a hard time justifying a 44% premium on coffee, a staple that I generally consume 2lbs. of each month. I have to wonder, is it a simple matter of profit margin? Or is it a differential driven by sales volume, or diversity of inventory? 44% is a steep premium for buying local.

Monday, March 1

All coming together ...

As I approach the start date for a new fulltime role and work to wrap up outstanding consulting obligations, it's been a crazy busy few weeks with not enough sleep, food or fresh air! However, it all seems to be coming together.

A quick snapshot of my morning, the culmination of days of grinding it out:

It's all coming together

  • We got StorageByMail's revamped, Rackspace Cloud-converted site launched.

  • We've been prototyping a creative multi-product stealth-mode SaaS offering for a NYC-area startup. I've been acting in both consulting CTO and lead dev roles, and have had the first chance in a while to work with Java and Tomcat applications commercially.

  • My work continues on a near-beta Twitter business services app; that app is now growing to include LinkedIn and Facebook as well.

  • I continue work on a still-stealth multi-social platform biz app I'm partnered with a great team out of NYC on. (Public beta by mid-March!)

As part of these efforts, in the last three weeks I have:
  • Started using ADO.NET Entities and LINQ to Entities instead of LINQ-to-SQL. Entities seem gosh darn piggish when it comes to RAM consumption -- even when managing repository lifetime in what I understand to be best-practice fashion. I don't recall that issue with LINQ-to-SQL. Generating the model/updating the model from the database is painful when it comes to some relationships that seem to require manual removal every regeneration. I hope Microsoft gets it right in 4.0.

  • Got over my fear of lambda expressions, at least fairly simple ones. I still need to fully grok compiled functions. Baby steps.

  • Realized yet again how much MS ASP.NET AJAX stinks. Obscure and painful to work with.

  • Written a .NET consumer for the Twitter Streaming API. I haven't come across any other full implementations in .NET, though my basic incremental HTTP consumer is modeled after others' examples. I will probably publish this to Google Code soon.

  • Started working with Google Buzz.

  • Written a .NET PubSubHubbub subscriber client and callback handler. This has been published to Google Code.

  • Worked with the new Buzzzy API on top of Google Buzz. Useful API for my needs, but the 250 requests/hour limit is kneecapping.

  • Created my own Google Buzz firehose by crawling 4.2M Google Profile IDs (crawl in-progress now, finally got a nice multi-threaded crawler purring) and subscribing to push notification for all of their Buzz feeds through pubsubhubbub.appspot.com. Unfortunately 4.2M is still not the complete set of profiles, but it's a great start.

Haven't yet had time to catch my breath or catch up on sleep ... but there's light at the end of the tunnel! More launches/betas to come! And more aggravation, learning and ... "opportunities" along the way I'm sure :)