Lovely Holiday

I had a very nice holiday season this year, and I hope you did as well. My wife and I went down to TX to visit her family, and spend time lounging in a beach house. I didn’t write any blog posts while I was there because I was too busy playing Skyrim, fishing and eating copious amounts of delicious food. However, now that I’ve come crashing back to the realities of life, I’ll start blogging again.

Since it’s 2012 now, I figured it might be fun to reflect on what technologies I found important in 2011.

  • Visual Studio 2010 — it’s still my primary development environment, and nothing changed in 2011 to make me drift away. I do still pull out VS 2008, and XCode, as needed. But nowhere near as often as VS 2010.
  • Lint — this is a tool I’ve really come to love. It’s been around for ages and I’ve used it before, but not to the extent I have this past year. It’s helped me to solve a few gnarly bugs in existing code bases, as well as avoid bugs in new code I’ve been writing.
  • Steam — this was the first year I really used Steam a lot for gaming, and I must admit that I really like this approach. It’s trivial to purchase games, gift games, communicate with friends and overall just have a fun time. I sincerely hope more game manufacturers jump on the Steam bandwagon! This was the first year since I can remember that I didn’t purchase a single hard copy of a game. Everything was downloaded, and the vast majority of that was Steam.
  • Roku — my wife got me one for my birthday, and it definitely gets put through its paces. We use it to watch Netflix, Ted talks, BBC world news, listen to music and all sorts of great things. What I enjoy the most about it is how unobtrusive it is!
  • Windows 7 — Couldn’t live without it. I actually liked Vista, because I could see where it was going and wanted to get there. But Windows 7 is leaps and bounds ahead of Vista in terms of enjoyment to use. Which brings me to…
  • Windows Remote Assist — this feature is awesome. It is so incredibly easy to do screen sharing, remote control, etc. I use this application to perform code reviews with coworkers, help my brother-in-law learn C, fix problems on my mom’s computer, and it’s all painless.

And I can’t list the good without listing the bad as well!

  • MSDN — this was the first time since I can remember when I found myself using the web instead of my offline MSDN viewer. I’m not certain how I feel about this, since I did find myself writing code at airports without wifi a fair amount. But the quality of MSDN online is so much higher than the application, it just “happened” silently.
  • Soundblaster — when I built my new computer this year, I decided to put in a dedicated soundcard. I figured that on-board audio was sufficient, but I wanted to see if I could get a better experience (since I finally threw away my 10 year old speakers and got some 5.1 speakers to replace them). What a terrible idea. I haven’t gone as far as pulling the card out of the box, but I’m close. I get popping and clicking noises because of poor shielding, I get constant “oddities” where sound suddenly stops working because of poor drivers. And Creative has been pretty much useless in solving the problems.
  • MLB.com — when I got my Roku, I also got a subscription to MLB.com. It lasted less than 24 hours. I wanted to watch Twins games, since the local cable company dropped the channel which would televise them. But it turns out MLB.com will not allow you to watch games if you are in the viewing area — you must use cable. The only way around this would be to set up Tor or some other proxy (effectively) to mask my true location. Because who wants to watch their hometeam, right? That’s the last time I’ll bother trying MLB, NFL, or NHL’s online services.
  • Card Member Services — it’s this phone semi-scam operation that constantly robodials my work cell phone trying to get me to do some BS with a credit card. I’ve never had a professional dealing with these guys before, so what they’re doing is quite illegal. The FCC agrees, but can’t seem to shut them down. Trying to get off their calling list gets you hung up on, as does asking for supervisors. So I devised a more analog approach to the problem. I always get one of their live humans on the phone, talk to them for a minute, and then blow a gym whistle into my phone until they hang up. I hope someone’s eardrums bleed and they get worker’s comp for it.
  • Gaming consoles — for the first time in ages, I played far more video games on my PC than on any of the consoles I own. I don’t have a real explanation for this, but it’s caught my attention. I always used to dislike PC gaming because I missed the controller, and because I work from home, I liked getting away from the computer. But at some point this year, I stopped playing on my consoles. Perhaps it was because of how easy Steam is?

If you’d like to share your technology hits and misses, feel free! Otherwise, I hope you had a great 2011, and have an even better 2012 (unless the world ends because the Mayans were right :: snorts ::)!

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2 Responses to Lovely Holiday

  1. Dan says:

    – Totally agree about Lint, Windows 7, and the Roku — although for Christmas I got a WD TV Live (only $90 @ Amazon, just a tad more than Roku) and it does so much more… I’ve been using Gimpel’s Lint products since 1990; I make an analogy between coding without Lint and driving without a seatbelt! And Win7 – after getting reamed by Vista (I have stories that make your toes curl), Win7 64-bit has been ROCK SOLID for me. I can only hope & pray that Microsoft doesn’t f*** up Windows 8 – seems to be their pattern to follow a gem with a turkey!

    – Windows Remote Assist – here it is 2012, I’ve had Win7 Ultimate 64-bit for almost 2 years, and I’m only now learning about this… you’ve piqued my interest, thank you!

    To add my own favorites:
    – TeamViewer6 – sharing / controlling of desktop – works on Windows, Mac & Linux, across machines.
    – VmWare Workstation 8 – each time I pick up a new client, I create a new virtual machine, helps keep things separated & also keeps my main rig from becoming too crowded.
    – Spotify – started out with the free membership, and in December I upgraded to the $10/month premium version. Worth every penny.
    – Evernote – again, upgraded from the free version to the $40/yr Premium version. Notes, technote ideas, lists, whiteboard screenshots – they all get dumped here, tagged, sorted & annotated. What did I do before? Can’t even remember.
    – DropBox – $100/yr for 50GB – family photos, personal tech work (mirrored from SVN repository), PDFs, ebooks, etc. all go here. Great to have my stuff sync’ed & accessible from different computers & my smart phone.

    Let’s see what cool stuff 2012 brings…

  2. Aaron Ballman says:

    @Dan — yeah, I am worried about Windows 8 as well. So far, I’ve not seen anything overly impressive. But that’s because I’m not a mobile kind of guy. Also, I agree about VMWare Workstation. I also love that it integrates into Visual Studio 2010 for more seamless remote debugging. That’s one thing I *despise* about VS — the remote debugging is ridiculously convoluted.

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