# Monday, April 02, 2012

I am very honored and excited about leading up the efforts for the next Midwest Give Camp.  For this installment we have been lucky enough to team up with the folks at That Conference and are hoping to ride the hype and excitement of this awesome event for another successful and rewarding Give Camp.

The Give Camp will be held at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI Saturday August 11th through Sunday August 12th, the weekend leading into That Conference.

We are working with an awesome charity that will no doubt be very familiar and close to a lot of your hearts and once we have all the details ironed out I will be going public with them.

For now block off the dates on your calendar and stay tuned for more details! 

posted on Monday, April 02, 2012 8:06:18 AM (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, March 12, 2012

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being a part of the first Skyline Give Camp. If you are not familiar with the Give Camp concept you can found out more here. What it boils down to is a bunch of people, mostly developers but project managers and designers as well, get together for 2 to 3 days, typically Friday through Sunday, and do some sort of work for a charity. Typically this involves either creating a new website for the charity or enhancing the charity’s current website. I have been involved in Give Camps in the past and find them to be very rewarding. The Give Camps that I have been involved in in the past have been in the Chicago area and open to the public usually with only the die hardest of community geeks attending.

About a month back I was approached by my boss and two of my colleagues about helping with an internal Give Camp for a charity called Riverview Gardens. I thought this would be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved as well as an opportunity to give back to the local community so I got on board…but I was leery. By this time the people I was approached by had already been working with the charity and had mock ups of what they wanted. In my past Give Camp experiences the work had always been limited to a public facing website, but this charity already had a public facing site in the works. What Skyline would be providing for the charity was a full featured volunteer management system not only for the desktop web browser, but also for the mobile web as well as native iPhone and Android applications. Needless to say this was a huge undertaking.

The amount of work was not my only concern. Typically these events are held in major hubs, like Chicago, and they draw developers from all over the Midwest. For this Give Camp the pool was Skyline employees, currently about 100 people, so I was worried about the turn out. Would there be enough interest in the event to even get it off the ground? We put out a survey to all employees and I was amazed by the great response. Out of a pool of 100 people, where actually only 80 or so are developers/designers/project managers, we had 30 people signed up. That is outstanding, and truly a testament to the type of people I have the pleasure to work with at Skyline Technologies.

Another concern I had was that in order to make the event a learning experience and to get in some free training for the attendees we chose to go with ASP.NET MVC 4, Entity Framework Code First, jQuery and jQuery Mobile for the desktop web and mobile web applications and Web API for our RESTful service layer. These are all new technologies that the majority of the people signed up to participate had very little working experience with.

So we did some planning, broke everyone into teams and prepared for the big event.

The event went off without a hitch. The eagerness to learn and to teach by everyone involved was outstanding. I was amazed at not only the amount of work that was accomplished but by the quality of work. At the wrap of day 2 we estimated that in total we where ~85% complete with the work. Unfortunately since the sites and apps we created are not public you will have to just take my word for it

This event was truly a testament to the type of organization that Skyline Technologies is and to the people that make up the Skyline family. I look forward to being a part of it for a very long time and hopefully we can make the Skyline Give Camp a yearly event, or maybe every other year…I am not as young as I used to be.

Oh yeah…did I mention we are hiring!

posted on Monday, March 12, 2012 8:27:59 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Thursday, March 01, 2012

In case you haven’t heard the beta version of Visual Studio 11 was released on February 29th.  You can get the bits here.  I ran into an issue when I was installing VS 11 Beta on 3 of my 4 machines and according to Microsoft.Connect others are encountering the same issue.

The issue is that the install runs just fine to about 98% complete and then hangs on Applying ultimate_finalizer.  I let this step chug away for a good hour during the my first 2 installs and then eventually canceled it.  After cancelling it you receive a message stating something along the lines of “97 of 99 components installed successfully”.  My first try I was happy with that result, those last 2 components probably weren’t all that important anyway Smile.  At first everything worked fine but then when it was time to do some actual coding and pull source down from TFS Preview I kept encountering all kinds of cryptic errors.  My first thought was to uninstall, but then I thought I would try the ‘repair’ functionality included on the VS11 Beta install.  The repair chugged for awhile and required 2 restarts.  The original install only required 1 restart.  Come to find out that 2nd restart is important because it wraps the entire process up.  So after running the repair everything is working fine.

So if you encounter this issue, this is currently the only workaround.  Check out Microsoft.Connect for details on the issue and to see if an actual bug has been found related to this issue.

posted on Thursday, March 01, 2012 8:23:05 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, February 13, 2012

I am currently in the process of getting my Microsoft Certification mainly because I was told I should.  I have started the process 3 times previously in my career but quickly “fell of the wagon” due to priorities I deemed more important such as bringing you this awesome blog content Smile.  I guess I have never really placed a lot of importance in certifications and figured that my past work/reputation are enough.  Anyone can pass a test with enough memorization of content, but not everyone can deliver quality software applications.

My thoughts on certification

  • I have never lost an opportunity as a consultant because I was not certified.
  • Certification is beneficial to new grads/ new entries in the software development work force.
  • Experience and proven track record should far out way a certification.
  • The content, at least in Microsoft exams, does not reflect the world.
  • You should be reimbursed for your time and fees should be covered by your employer and /or a comparable bonus should be awarded.

So, the point of this post, other than to get something out quick so I can get back to studying for said certification exam 1, is to ask a few questions to you my loyal audience.

  1. Are you certified in any technology/methodology/software practice?
  2. If you are certified:
    1. What are you certified in?
    2. Why did you get certified? 
    3. Did the content you study reflect the real world?
    4. Did you ever lose an opportunity prior to certification because you where not certified?
    5. Since becoming certified have you gotten an opportunity because you are certified?
    6. Did your employer provide compensation/bonus for becoming certified?
    7. What have you gained by becoming certified?
    8. Was it worth it?
  3. If you are not certified:
    1. Why aren’t you?

 

I would love to hear what everyone has to say on this.  Thanks for your time.

posted on Monday, February 13, 2012 4:27:00 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, February 06, 2012

I have been working a lot with MVC sites lately and experimenting with how to make them *usable* on mobile browsers.  This is post is about the single line of mark-up you can add to your sites Master Page, or in this case your _Layout.cshtml.

Before I get to that line I am going to show you a quick screen shot of a vanilla MVC 3 application, that can be downloaded here.

First is a screen shot of the site running in a desktop browser.

image

 

Next, is the site rendered on Windows Phone 7, Android, and iPhone.

Windows Phone 7

Opera Mobile (Android)

iPhone

image image image

 

The first thing you notice is that iOS does a fairly good job adaptively rendering the site, damn Apple!  Next you will notice that all WP7 and Android do is zoom out so the site fits on the device.  A site of any significant content or functionality would be almost useless because of the amount of panning and zooming that would be required.  I am sure we have all dealt with sites on our mobile devices like that.  So what can we do to make the site render better in WP7 and Android?

You can actually get a long way towards perfect mobile rendering of your site by adding one simple html tag.

  1. <meta name="viewport" />

The meta viewport tag can be used to control how HTML content is displayed in mobile browsers.  The meta viewport tag has properties like width, height, minimum-scale, and maximum-scale.  In this example the particular property we are concerned with is the width property.  We want to tell the the browser to render our content width at the width of device.

  1. <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width">

Let’s see what happens when we add that tag to the head of our _Layout.cshtml file

image

As you can see above, because the meta viewport tag only effects mobile browsers our desktop version looks exactly the same.  Let’s check on the mobile browsers.

Windows Phone 7

Opera Mobile (Android)

iPhone

image image image

The site looks much better on Windows Phone 7 and Android, and still looks the same in Apple.  So by adding that single line of mark-up we where able to give our mobile users a much better user experience.

Stay tuned for a future post on using CSS Media Queries to improve the mobile experience even further.

posted on Monday, February 06, 2012 8:15:38 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [2]