Because I tire of looking up each time when I need to send a test message, I am adding this here for a quick reference.

 

telnet servername 25

helo somename

mail from:mailname@domain.com

rcpt to:mailname@domain.com

data

subject:your subject information here

Body stuff goes here and here and here, etcetera, etcetera…

.

 

Of course now that I think about it, will have to look this up as well, Google is probably faster.  :)

If you reading this is not me, then you probably got here from Google yourself.

A tall high-five to the employees at Double Fine.  That cool indie game company out of San Francisco headed up by the legendary Tim Schafer.  Why? do you ask. Well let me tell you.  

 

My eldest son just finished the sixth grade where he was in the gifted program.  This year his teacher decided to try the Genius Hour program in her classroom.   Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. The teacher planed to have a few Genius Hours throughout the year.  The first two Genius hours the students may pick any subject that they don’t already know about.  The third Genius hour the students needed to pick a future career.  After the students learn about their subject they put together a report and short presentation to explain what they learned, etc. to the rest of the class.

Genius Hour Logo

For his first Genius Hour he chose ink as a subject to learn about.  He never really said why, “just because I was interested in it”, he would say.  Okay, cool.  He sure has brought up some interesting ink facts over the last few months I must admit.  I never did see his presentation, but I believe he received a perfect score.

His second Genius Hour was on building games in Unity3d.  He went through one of their tutorials to build a top-down space shooter game.  This was followed by a presentation of what he did and what he learned. One conclusion of his project he discovered he prefers is creating content and story-lines over hacking on code.

Space shooter imageIt’s his third Genius hour, future career, that I am writing about here.  The teacher had the students research the chosen career and interview someone in that field. My son chose, “Senior Developer at an Indie Game Company.”  As a programmer myself, this sounded interesting.  And who wouldn’t want to create games for a living? I know I would love to! It seems natural that he would pick game development of some type. Since he was very young, at least three, he would make up games all the time to play with people.  His Grandmother Debbie played these games with him the most.  She would say they are really creative, though, of course, skewed for him to win.  ;)  He has continued to create games with parents, friends, neighborhood kids, etc. and they are much more fair now (so we think… j/k).

As time went on an his deadline came closer I kept asking him how things are going.  He usually responded that he was researching about the job but had not found anyone to interview.   I thought he may be able to interview me, though honestly I am, at best, an aspiring game developer.  I thought of a few friends at work, but they didn’t fit well either.  Until one day I thought of Double Fine. Oh that would be perfect!

I first heard of Double Fine through their Kickstarter, “Double Fine Adventure“.  I have always loved Tim DoubleFine logoSchafer’s games and the fact he wanted to raise money to build one without the bureaucracy and bullshit of production companies. I’m all for it, sign me up!  On top of that they planned on filming the making of the game and provide that movie to backers.  When I saw this, I had to have a copy of the movie. Mostly because I hoped it could give an inside view for my son on what goes in to these computer games he loves to play and design.

So my next question was, how to contact them?  I started with the basics, the about/contact page on their website.  I found a general email address and started crafting an email.  It was a horribly written email, I have no idea what I was smoking at the time. My wife still loves to rib me about my appalling use of the English language.  Though this didn’t matter.  I sent the email on Friday, April 25th at 17:32 Central Time.  I didn’t expect to here back from anyone until the following week.  By 18:02 that same day I received a response which started out with:

“I’ve forwarded your e-mail to the whole company and there are already a few that are more than happy to oblige. You should be getting a separate e-mail from one soon.”

What!? Are you kidding me? That is freak’n awesome!  I really didn’t think anyone would really be interested.  I was flat out wrong.  A few seconds later I received an email From Ben Burbank, a senior developer at Double Fine.  Him and another showed interest and agreed to an interview.  After a while there where a few more who were interested as well.  At this point I was kind of hoping to hear form Tim himself, though I knew that was a pretty tall order.  The overall response from the company’s employees was so warm.  They expressed so much interest in helping.  It was refreshing very appreciated.

I had my son plan out the time and interview with Ben and others.  He needs to learn these things, I got him the contact, he can run with it.  Which he did pretty well.

The day of the interview Ben and others spent close to one and one-half hours on Skype with my son.  That was so completely awesome.  I am so happy I reached out to Double Fine, the results turned out better than I had hoped.

My son finished his interview, wrote up his paper and completed his presentation all on time.  He “winged” the presentation, which I wasn’t too happy about.  Though he needs to learn in his own way.  His score reflected his input.

It is now a couple of weeks into Summer break and he has not stopped creating.  He put together a mod pack for Minecraft to design some mini games around. And just today, designed some floor game using dice and army men which he said he really liked the outcome of and plans on writing up rules/instructions.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, I am so proud of my son.

I have real simple advice for him, “Never stop being awesome.” Everything else will fall in to place.

 

To the great people of Double Fine:

Thank you so much for taking time out of your day, your life, to give a little of yourself for the benefit of my son. I really appreciate you. And hey, you never know, maybe one day he may be the Senior Developer in an Indie Game Company at your company.  :)

If you are every in the Chicago area, give me a call, I’ll buy you a drink.

 

I have spent the last few months at work standardizing system builds and creating simple scripts and checklists to help maintain them.  As you may know this is a very labor-intensive way to go about things.  Its inability to scale is already showing strong even with the few dozen servers we manage.Pile of servers

Another pain point is the lower environments. The scripts are written for production.  Though I try to keep them as generic as possible, there are just things that aren’t generic, like bound IP’s.  So now that we are moving our standard build to all environments this is starting to shard our deployment processes.  Something I would like to avoid.

A logical step you may be screaming right now, is automation tools! Apply a deployment automation framework like Chef, Puppet or PowerShell DSC. I can’t disagree, but time is very limited and the first step toward a framework needs to be made carefully.

I knew from experience that automation will be needed, but I intentionally didn’t start there as what exactly needed to be automated or to what level wasn’t known. And for the most part this still isn’t fully known–and that’s okay.  That’s why whenever approaching such targets you do so in small iterations (batches) and review your progress continuously.

Instead of starting out coding the configuration of my server I started with a checklist of everything which goes into it.  I assume if I was a seasoned Chef user (for example), I may start with a Recipe and start defining my server that way, but I am not a seasoned Chef user, or puppet, orPowerShell DSC, or super-automater-X. I am an administrator who still follows checMorpheusklists and runs scripts to do much of my work, and I am drowning.  Time for the next step, time for an automation framework, but which to choose?

This is where the overwhelming part comes in as I try to determine which way to go in a world I know little about.  I understand the concepts and operation of these things, but I have no idea the effort required to implement one technology over the other, and which ones will work best in our environment.

Am I afraid to do some good old fashion research and testing?  No. I really don’t think so.  Time is such a factor now and none of this is supported by my mangement.  I am doing this because I know it needs to be done.  They wont buy into it until they know its a sure thing (sigh).  I would hate to spend a week digging into a solution to determine that it doesn’t work.  Well honestly, what is the problem with that?  It isn’t like I will not learn from it either way, if the path is successful or not. What I would really like is to know which is the most logical way to go for a Windows platform. A pros and cons list may even be a good start, as long as its written neutrally.

 

puppetlabs.com PowerShell getchef.com

 

Obviously PowerShell DSC is fully supported on windows. ;)  And the reading I have done on Chef and Puppet describes they support windows machines as well (Though neither list Server 2012).  PowerShell DSC is new and rough around the edges and both Chef an Puppet have been banged around for a while. But without learning each one and trying them out, how am I to know a logical path to go down.  Analysis paralysis anyone?

Have you gone down this path? Do you have some resources to suggest?

 

 

I had a bit of a realization today and I am not exactly sure what my next step should be.

I make a pretty decent living for what I do.  I work hard and provide value to my employer.  It is no secret that I have been looking to expand my professional experience within this or another company, though finding a new career has proven to be much more difficult than I could imagine.

After a recent interview, which I thought went really well (and was told, ‘thank you but not a good fit’) I had a conclusion.  I am really good at what I do and have been paid accordingly for it. Though to go somewhere else and ask for the same salary the employers are looking with someone with more experience driving businesses.  I have worked more hands-on and have not been looked to for big-picture ideas and scope.   I can have all the ideas and passion in the world, but without the experience, it seems no one is going to take a chance on me.  And why should they, there are another 105 people applying for the same position.

So now my next question for myself is, what is your next step to move toward a better career path (a personal target condition)?

 

It’s Earth Day which has grown into Earth Week.  Hopefully by the time my kids are my age it will be Earth Month or even Earth Year! I mean it needs to be part of our everyday lives.Earth Picture

So for Earth Day I have a list of 25 ways to help keep this beautiful blue ball stay that way.

  1. Recycle all the paper, plastic, glass and metal products you can.
  2. Always put garbage in its proper place–garbage can or recycling bin.
  3. Write or draw on both sides of a piece of paper before recycling it.
  4. Print sheets of paper from your computer only if you really need them.
  5. Use sponges, rags and cloth napkins instead of paper products.
  6. Carry your lunch in a reusable box or bag.
  7. Bike, walk or ride the bus instead of taking the car. Plus its cheaper than the gym.
  8. Check to see that your car’s tires are properly inflated.  I hear nitrogen assists with gas mileage as well.
  9. If the car you are in is going to be stopped for more than a minute ask the driver to turn it off.  Probably not at stoplights though.
  10. Replace burnt-out bulbs at home with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. I hear these may contain mercury, any truth to that? Can they be recycled?
  11. Turn off the lights, computer, radio, stereo and TV when you leave a room.
  12. Sit near a window when you read instead of turning on a light
  13. Set the thermostat a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer.
  14. Wash clothes in cold water and hang them out to dry.
  15. Don’t turn the dishwasher on until it is full.
  16. Take short showers to save energy and water.
  17. Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth.
  18. Put leftover food in reusable containers, not in plastic wrap or foil.
  19. Wash and reuse glass jars, plastic containers and plastic utensils.
  20. When shopping, look for items made out of recycled materials.
  21. Bring your own reusable bags when shopping.
  22. Mend and repair clothes and toys rather than buying new ones.
  23. Create a compost pile of food scraps and plant cuttings
  24. Buy food at local farmers’ markets.
  25. Volunteer for community events, such as a cleanup day at the park.

How many of these do you follow regularly?

Any you disagree with?

Happy Earth Day and remember to take care of our home!

I love computer games.  I have been playing them since I was able to use a computer.  I can’t say I am an avid gamer, I really don’t have the time for that, but I sure enjoy playing them.

MC-Brettski111

One game I play often, and usually with my sons, is Minecraft.  A sandbox adventure game which we have found very fun.  We have spent countless hours building different things, going on adventures and PvP fighting.

On a cold night in November I started digging in to MinecraftForge.  A modding system for Minecraft.  In short time my oldest son and I created two ‘Mods’ for Minecraft: Stonecraft and GrackMod.

I really enjoyed manipulating the game play.  I found it very satisfying to interact with items we added to the game.  Play with rules we developed.  It was just cool.

A month or so prior to this a friend of mine introduced me to Unity3d.  A game development environment which allows you to release 2D and 3D games to many different platforms. And you can do all your scripting in C#!  JavaScript I believe is the other scripting language available.

Unity_Pri

Acting on the bug which bit me writing the Minecraft mods I downloaded Unity3d and started playing around.  Quickly I figured out this stuff is pretty complex, there is simply a lot to it.  Off to the tutorials!

The first tutorial I found was a top-down shooter game called, Space Shooter.  You fly a simple spaceship and shoot asteroids flying toward you.  It’s a basic 3d game which covers many of the very basics of building a game in Unity3d. My version can be found here.

Of course I couldn’t leave the tutorial as is.  Once built I added a high score, increasing difficulty with more asteroids and faster asteroids.  The overall experience was good and I want more!

Since I can’t draw for shit, and am not very creative with design tools, I plan to stick to the 2d world of gaming.  Modeling 3d objects just scares me.  So you may ask, where do you plan to get content?  Well, two main sources, first, is my son who is a better artist than he realizes and second I will end up buying available content.  I have found some decent stuff already (links needed) and I assume I can find someone to create some stuff form me.

Next on the list is to build a tower defense game.  I found at least one tutorial to build one.  It’s not 2d but  I am hoping it will provide more depth into maintaining more cloned prefabs, controlling their paths and player’s placing items.  Hey, who doesn’t like tower defense games?

See one of my ultimate goals is to build a SimTower type game.  A game I really enjoyed in the past, which doesn’t work on most new hardware (though I do still run it in an XP VM on my Win8.1 box!).  Can I improve on the game?  I have no idea, but I am going to build my version and see how it goes.  I don’t plan to get caught up in cloning the old game, I just want to take it a step (feature) at a time and see where it goes.  I think it will be a lot of really-frustrating fun to build.  The whole reason I build things in the first place.  What fun would it be if it was simple?  It would be boring and be lame.

Octocat

I’ll update progress as I continue tutorials and build new stuff.  I plan to keep all of it available in GitHub so others may use it for examples or whatever.

2013 is the first year ever that I setup an IDP (Individual Development Plan) for my employees. small_336716715 That is any employees I have ever managed throughout my career.  I have to say when presented with the notion of having to do this, I questioned my ability to do it and its true worth.  Now into our first few months of the IDP, I have to say they are a good tool for learning more about your employees and helping them succeed in a direction they want to go.

As a manager the concept sounded like a good one to me.  I approached it as how I would like to construct an IDP with my manager.  The most important part to setting up an IDP is to take the first step to do it.  Yes, it is that simple, take the first step toward implementing them with your employees.

For me I did a small amount of reading to learn what they are.  Reviewed the companies intranet on the resources available to us, and called a meeting with my team.  No plan, no hard structure, just a direction and a desired outcome; to help develop an IDP of each of my employees.

At the meeting with my employees I explained about the IDP and that we will start putting these together on a one-on-one basis. Sure there were a lot of eye rolling, etc., but gratefully most everyone went back to their desks and put some thought behind where they want their career to go.

According to Wikipedia an IDP is, “…a document completed by individual for the plan of self-development over the next period, usually one year.”

Sounds pretty dry to me, but I guess it covers it. An IDP is a document of individual for the plan of self development. Though for the most part the document doesn’t really mean much, its the process of creating the document that has all the impact.

Recall I said most employees went back to their desks to put some thought behind their careers.  There where a few who really doubted the IDP and considered it another corporate paper waste of time.  And it easily can be, and this is where I come in, to work hard with these employees to reveal some direction they want for their career.

After the initial meeting I called meetings with each employee.  The meetings where set for an hour, but I left a half hour of slack afterwards, just in case.  Since I was learning here as well, I wanted to ensure there was enough time to formulate a plan, or at least have a good start of one.  I didn’t fully know what to expect.  The order I set the meetings was not random.  During the initial meeting and a short time after I paid attention to employees reaction to the IDP.  Since this is my first time doing this, I wanted to make sure that I had more willing participants in the beginning–their plans will be easier to put together and this will be a way to get a few under my belt before tackling the more difficult cases.

boat_bows_320

What happened during the first month was absolutely amazing to me; my employees were generally excited about their plan and what I was trying to do for them.  It made me excited.  I look forward to our next meetings to find out what they have learned and the progress made on their goals.  

There are four steps in an IDP, create, capture, execute, reflect. It’s a circular process, where creation occurs again after refection.  

During creation the employee considers their strengths, development areas and short/long term career goals.  This information is captured and brought with them to the meetings with their manager.  It is amazing how difficult this step can be for some.  In a couple first meetings, I assisted the employee on focusing on future goals; what it is they want to do.  The focus here isn’t what you may need to do to excel at your current position, but provide the skills required to keep you moving forward.  I found it helpful to remind the employee that this is not, in any way, part of the review process.  This plan is here strictly for them.  I am providing them an outlet to improve themselves and it is up to them to run with it.  I will help in any way I can, but obviously cannot do it for them.

The capture step is where the plan is finalized.  This is where I had very important conversations with employees about their future development and goals.  Some employees had a solid idea of where they wanted to go others had never given it a lot of thought.  For employees with solid ideas we set up goals for to move in this direction.  Where possible these goals were aligned with projects which could assist the company or our department.  In some cases we made up projects which would ultimately assist in some way, but most importantly provide all important focus to complete the tasks.  This is not always possible, and I feel this is okay too.  The goal is their development and if there are no correlating work withing the company I’m okay with that.

Execution is obvious, it is the work performed by the employee outlined in the IDP.  During this sail_underway_400time we try to meet every-other-week to discuss progress, ask questions, and show off what progress has been done.  Much of this is one-on-one is the reflection step.  This is the step I am in with my employees currently.  I am finding to help keep some focused regular meetings are benefitial.  These aren’t long meetings, I am not a meeting zealot.  We set aside thirty minutes every-other-week.  Sometimes we’ve used the time, other times it lasted ten minutes.

Reflection is the final step where the employee and manager use the IDP as a tool to discuss skill development on a regular basis.  Still being new to this process there hasn’t been a lot of time spent on reflection yet.  There will be during the first quarter this year and I plan to fill in more details.  Some good questions for an employee to ask during this step are:

  • What steps have I completed since our last discussion?
  • What obstacles are preventing me from completing action steps or applying my new skill(s)?
  • What else is required to bring me to my desired skill level?

For the employees there are three important question they should ask themselves:

  • Does my manager know and support my short- and long-term career goals?
  • Can I articulate how I will close critical development gaps and continue to build key strengths to achieve my goals?
  • Have I improved at least one skill in the past three months? 

If you have answered “no” to one or more of these questions it is likely you are not performing at your highest level, and may not be fully engaged within your role.  I found these three questions really important and a great way to understand my employees future desires and goals.  Working through the IDP provided great insight into these areas and taught me things about my employees that I never new.  I also believe it taught things to the employees that they didn’t know about themselves.

To build a strong team, their needs to be communication and understanding.  I have found that the Individual Development Plan process is a great way to open new paths of communication and the future desires of employees.  If you are not paying attention to where an employee wants to go, they will most probably head out the door to find it.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

On and off for the last couple of months I have been learning Erlang.  My primary source for this is a decent booked named, “Learn You Some Erlang for Great Good!” (Fred Hebért, (c)2013 no starch press). What a great name, no starch press (:  I first found this tutorial online at http://learnyousomeerlang.com/.  The entire book is there, believe it or not.  I worked through the first few chapters and was hooked.  I decided to purchase the book to help pay for the work and for it to be more convenient to read.  But I digress, back to IIS & Mercurial.

Mercurial Logo

The whole reason for the Erlang digression is that I was going through examples in the book on different computers.  After I was done with the session I would have copy my practice files back to my home server, which was a pain on a disconnected Linux box.  To solve this, I figured, why not setup a repo at home.  I have been wanting to do this for a while anyhow.  Now I could setup an SVN repo in a few minutes, but I don’t really use SVN anymore (“It’s so 1990’s (:  ).  Mercurial is my DSCM of choice.  I have nothing against GIT, and do use it, I just regularly use Mercurial.

IIS7 logo

My home server is Microsoft Windows Home Server 2011.  Basically Windows 2008 R2 (IIS 7.5) with some other “stuff” thrown in.  Finding installations for a Mercurial server under Windows is not a simple task.  There are articles out there, most of them are old or incomplete.

This walk-through, http://www.jeremyskinner.co.uk/mercurial-on-iis7/ [Jeremy’s article], is good and walks well through the process.  Unfortunately it is out of date and doesn’t cover well what needs to be installed today to get this to work.  The first part of my pain as things weren’t working.  I am thankful for its explanation of adding CGI support in IIS7, something I haven’t needed to do in IIS7 before.  One thing this article mentions (in bold) is to use x86 installer of Python, even if your machine is 64-bit.  I believe this is no longer accurate as I installing 64-bit Mercurial and 64-bit Python and all is working fine.

For the start of my journey I was using this walk-through along with a few Mercurial wiki pages: http://mercurial.selenic.com/wiki/HgWebDirStepByStep and http://mercurial.selenic.com/wiki/PublishingRepositories.  I was understanding how the publishing works, but not getting things to work on my Windows server.  Mostly my error was around Python not being able to find hgweb stuff.  It was blowing up on application = hgweb(config), and said application undefined. The additional Mercurial installation I needed was located here: http://mercurial.selenic.com/wiki/Download#Windows which I found in a helpful wiki artical, http://mercurial.selenic.com/wiki/HgWebInIisOnWindows.  If you follow this article straight through, you will almost have a successful installation.  What I learned from this page is that the Python module installer needs to be run.  This adds Mercurial modules to Python.  Something which is needed and not specified in the other installation instructions.

If you don’t like the command line, the IIS configuration in the Mercurial wiki article is done through the command line.  You can reference how to do these through the UI using Jeremy’s article.

My suggestion after going though this, this morning is to use both articles.  Read through them first, before installing anything, then plan your attack and go for it. Oh and yeah, you’ll need to refer to the Publishing Repositories wiki page.

New hg site

A few things I learned from this morning’s adventures

  • Within the hgweb.config file the section [collections] is no longer needed, the section [paths] may be used instead.  There is more information around this here: http://mercurial.selenic.com/wiki/PublishingRepositories
  • Within hgweb.config a path of / = /path/to/repo/* will show (publish) all repositories.
  • Withing hgweb.config using allow_push = * allows any user to push to the repository. Using this settings negates the need to enable authentication on the web.  Yes this makes things insecure, but my setup is internal to my house only.

So sure this took a bunch of hours to figure out and get working correctly.  Though now it is working correctly and I have my working Mercurial repository like I have been wanting for some time. Plus I have learned a bunch of stuff too.  Perhaps I’ll go play a game now.

Is your organization anti-fragile?  It isn’t enough to be resilient and survive through rough rides.  You need to improve, and become stronger during these times. If you run into something difficult, keep doing it until it is no longer difficult.  Without this continual improvement you will never move ahead. 

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/06/make_your_organization_anti-fr.html

If your organization isn’t Anti-Fragile, you are losing to one that is.  

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