Feb 09

I’ve published my first Android App

After getting the Canberra Comedy Festival iPhone App published in the iTunes App Store I set my sights on developing an Android version.

I’m pleased to say that this has now been released and is available in the Google Play Store.


Get it on Google Play

Overall I found the experience much more pleasant than developing in iOS. To be fair I had a better idea of what to build, but the learning curve seemed easier compared to iOS. I’ll go into details in a later post. But for now, download the app and check it out. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Jan 26

Happy Australia Day

This Australia Day I woke early to help my son construct a Danish toy with components made in China, Mexico, Denmark and more. We watched an episode of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (the one where a plain, shy girl from the country didn’t get any attention or confidence until she went to the beach in a bikini) and then listened to some music via Pandora. He told me he liked “this music” when Cold Chisel came on, perhaps my proudest moment.

Later I’ll make a cappuccino and contemplate life. I’ll try and listen to a bit of the triple j Hottest 100 and curse that the yoof have no taste in music and it’s all just noise. I plan on burning some Woolies sausages for lunch, drink a Tasmanian beer made by a Japanese owned company. After a couple of these I’ll probably watch Adam Hills singing the best version of our national anthem that there could be and get goosebumps.

I’m sure I’ll tut-tut at some high profile goose who makes a racial gaffe on social media, and I’ll definitely be slagging off our Prime Minister and his cronies for being mean spirited conservatives who are more interested in helping their mates at the big end of town than doing what is best for the long term interests of Australia.

Before the day ends I’ll jump on the computer and download a few episodes of my favourite American sitcom, streamed over that great CSIRO invention Wi-Fi.

And with Australia being such an amazing country I’m free to say all this publicly and enjoy the day however I bloody well want. The only point to this exercise in word-wankery is to hope you all enjoy the day the way you want to – without negatively impacting others. Yes flags as cape wearers, I’m looking you.

Have a great Australia Day! Farkin’ straya!

 

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Jan 24

Canberra Comedy Festival iPhone App

For the last couple of months in my spare time I’ve been working on an iPhone App for the Canberra Comedy Festival. It’s been a learning curve as I’ve never developed for iPhone before. Happy to say that it has now been published (that’s an experience in itself) and available for download!

I’d like to move on to an Android equivalent, if time permits.

 

 

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Jan 19

OS X equivalent to Windows Live Writer

I’ve decided to give OS X a more prominent role in my life – I’ve moved my Windows 8.1 Boot Camp partition into a VMWare Fusion VM and run it from within OS X now. There’s a few things I miss from Windows that I don’t want to boot up the VM for and one of those is Windows LiveWriter.

This post is a test from a OS X app named PixelPumper. It connected to my self-hosted WordPress site flawlessly and looks like it will support composition of blog posts before publishing them. I prefer software like this to editing in the browser if I can – it feels cleaner, can be done offline (usually) and can be less distracting.

PixelPlumper is free and is in the Mac store. It looks pretty handy and is worth checking out if you blog on a WordPress site. 

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Nov 20

The Year Without Pants – Review

I just finished the Kindle edition of The Year Without Pants. Excellent book, I haven’t enjoyed a “business” book like this for quite a while.

While I bought it based on recognition of the author Scott Berkun (I’ve read a few other of his books), without knowing too much about what it was going to be about. I mistakenly thought it might have been about experimenting for a year as a blogger / writer.

It was actually about his time at Automattic, the company that makes WordPress and runs wordpress.com. It provided amazing insights into a company made up entirely of remote workers and software development that is at the opposite end of the spectrum to ‘enterprise’ software development. Don’t take that to mean it was cowboy software development, it’s software development that is treated more as a craft where people take pride in their work and without a lot of the red tape of traditional enterprise style software development.

So if you’re interested in that kind of thing, check it out. Scott’s books are always entertaining to read.

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Nov 15

Azure hosting

Welcome to the first post after moving the hosting of this blog to a Windows Azure VM. If you’re seeing this the migration went well. I decided to move from my existing host (how was great) to trial a bit of Azure IaaS and see how it goes. I have a few other websites on the go and wanted to move from a Linux host to a Windows host to run up some MVC apps I’ve been working on.

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Nov 04

Dynamics CRM 2013 and Tablet apps

A couple of weeks ago Microsoft released apps for Windows 8 tablets, iPad and even Android for mobile access to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. This is great news and the apps look pretty decent.

If you’re running an on-premise installation of CRM what are your options for connecting these apps? Well you’ll need network connectivity of course, and the CRM must be configured as an Internet Facing Deployment. That doesn’t mean it has to necessarily be facing the Internet, but the same infrastructure must be configured.

What that means is you need to configure CRM to use SSL / HTTPS and you also need to install ADFS.

One critical note from the implementation guide is the following:
“In order for Microsoft Dynamics CRM for tablets to successfully connect to a new deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server 2013, you must run a Repair of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server 2013 on the server running IIS where the Web Application Server role is installed after the Internet-Facing Deployment Configuration Wizard is successfully completed.”

If you are going to explore the tablet world for your CRM it’s worth reading the Administration guide which does a good job of explaining how the new UI is translated into the various app.

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Nov 02

Dad joke industry threatened by mainstream media

Meanwhile, thousands of Dad joke purveyors across the country are reeling.

“Damn it, ‘Electricity Bill’ was my idea! I can’t believe they stole it. I should have known this would happen after they took Kevin747 and Juliar without crediting me, but this time they’ve gone too far.

I even have the notes to show my workings. Fair enough, Gas Bill was a bit wide of the mark but it was just the first spark of creativity. I went through several others – Phone Bill made no sense, and Water Bill was a bit of a stretch. But I knew Electricity Bill was gold. My family loved it when I dropped it at the dinner table.

How am I ever going to get invited to deliver the keynote at the Society of the Witty if this kind of intellectual property theft continues unabated? This must be how the movie and music industries feel.”

 

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Aug 20

The changing world of content consumption

Every now and again I get a reminder of how things used to be. Seeing a newspaper for sale at the petrol station, or having visitors stay with you who insist on watching the commercial TV news at 6:00pm. It reminds me how much my own media consumption habits have changed over the last few years.

It’s not a new trend and I’m certainly not the most cutting edge person in the world but I still marvel at how complete my transformation has become.

About five years ago I would have:

  • Read news websites (since about 1996)
  • Leisurely read the printed newspaper on the weekend over a coffee
  • Watched occasional TV news
  • Recorded TV shows onto VHS that I really didn’t want to miss if I was organised enough in advance
  • Rented DVDs from the local rental store

Since then a lot of things have changed in my life and with the technology that surrounds me. The most major impact was I became a parent. I could no longer guarantee that I was free at a particular time of the day to sit back and relax, and certainly not for large contiguous blocks of time. I was no longer in control of my own schedule.

Around the time my son was born I entered into the PVR foray and purchased a Topfield PVR that let me record shows way more easily than VHS. I’d become a time shifter, watching shows on my terms – when I wanted, and skipping the ads I never wanted to see.

My son had some health issues that meant we spent a lot of time sitting around holding him which makes for a lot of dead time. Before long I’d convinced myself to get a HTC Hero, my first Android smartphone. All of a sudden I could sit there and read things off the internet while cuddling him to sleep or keeping him calm.

Disappointingly the Topfield became unreliable immediately after the warranty expired which saw the hard drive regularly dump all the recorded shows. It was replaced with a purpose built HTPC which is still going solid to this day.

The HTPC also opened up a whole new avenue of content – streaming things from ABC iView, Netflix, YouTube to supplement the TV shows we watch live but more regularly watch when they suit our purposes. Chock full of kids TV shows, my son can’t comprehend a world where we can’t put on one of his favourite TV shows or movies in a matter of a few clicks and mere seconds.

To be honest I rarely watch TV these days anyway, I find I spend so much time reading. Reading online content – Twitter has become a major source of breaking news, websites and of course eBooks. My only lament of all the books I have on my bookshelf is I can’t drop them in a big bin to instantly digitise and recycle them. No more radio in the car, I listen to podcasts or the occasional audio book. There’s so much quality content out there – and most if it is free – that it’s hard to keep up at times.

If I do find myself sitting down with a newspaper somewhere I get frustrated by the front to back nature of the reading – sure I can just flick around the pages skimming for stories I’m interested in, but it’s not the same. And that nagging feeling that the news I’m reading is at least 12 hours old – ancient!

So to me the biggest transformative changes in the last few years would be:

  • Proliferation of smartphones and tablets – content readers everywhere you go.
  • Maturity of online content sources – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even eventually TV networks replaying shows on their websites
  • Bandwidth – increasing quotas and decreasing prices make all of this possible.

 

It’s certainly a strange new world we live and it’s amazing to think what things might be like in the years ahead. Thanks for coming on this trip down nostalgia lane with me.

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Jul 17

Pop-up labs in Windows Azure

I recently came across these two excellent videos about the concept of a pop-up lab in Windows Azure using the IaaS approach of provisioning your own virtual machines. The “pop-up” part of this is that the lab is built, then turned off and de-allocated while not in use. Scripts are used to turn the lab back on, returning your lab environment in about 7 minutes.

 

There’s been some changes to Azure billing now that make these videos a bit out of date, but the good news is it just simplifies things. Now when you shut down a VM from the management console (or via PowerShell) they are automatically de-allocated, which means they are not being billed. The start / stop scripts then basically become startup and shutdown scripts which makes things a lot easier.

 

So over time you can build up a variety of labs – whether they be SharePoint, CRM, even Linux shenanigans and have them sitting there “off” and only turn them on when needed.

 

Why would you want to do this? Some possible ideas:

  • You need a multi-server environment to test your app
  • You want to try out an install from a known base
  • You want to experiment with some of the different configurations of server sizes for your app
  • You want to establish a short-term demo environment and give other people access to it over the internet

 

One of the greatest features for an infraloper like me (i.e. someone with a developer background who knows enough about infrastructure to be dangerous) is that Azure comes with network load balancing. So in the example of a SharePoint farm you define an endpoint that then handles load balancing between all your web front ends. Configuration is done through the console and only takes a couple of minutes. You can apply this concept to multiple CRM servers, multiple IIS servers hosting an ASP.NET app, even multiple Linux servers with Apache if you wanted.

 

Even in workplaces where I’ve had control over the physical host that hosts my VMs I haven’t yet had access to make network changes to do this kind of thing. So being able to configure this in Azure is pretty appealing.

 

Someone asked me why you’d need this at all – doesn’t “the cloud” just scale? With IaaS you’re taking the middle ground of retaining enough control that you’re doing an “on premise” installation of products (from the perspective of the software installation steps), it’s just that your premises in this case is the Azure cloud. It could just as easily be Amazon EC2, a bunch of VPS at a traditional provider. 

 

Overall I was pretty impressed with how this offering from Microsoft has progressed. I’m only able to play around with this stuff thanks to my MSDN subscription which gives me free hours. But thanks to the “only billed when it is on” approach I can configure a variety of environments and have them ready to go if I need them in the future.

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