Always Keep Salt in the Server Room

I don’t know why; it must be some kind of sysadmin thing. Maybe the salt is for keeping slugs away.

Server room, with a large tangle of wires. In the centre of the room is a table covered with folders, papers, and a large container fo salt.Click the photo to see it at full size.


Vault Boy Goes to D.C., and It Doesn’t Look So Bad

The Lincoln Memorial, with the "Vault Boy" bobblehead in the foreground

“Katharsyss” took a “Vault Boy” bobblehead (Vault Boy is the graphic mascot of the Fallout series of games) on a trip to Washington, D.C., and took photos of the city’s well-known sights with it in the foreground. It’s amusing because Fallout 3 is set in a future postapocalyptic version of D.C., which is a radioactive wasteland crawling with crazed super mutants, feral ghouls, radscorpions and raiders.

In case you’re not familiar with Fallout 3, here’s the teaser trailer for the game:

And here’s the Zero Punctuation review:


Health (and Sex!) Tips for Programmers


My friend Andrew Burke has written a blog post on staying healthy as a programmer. It’s not easy given the sedentary nature of the job. Check out his advice, which is pretty sound – but make sure you actually do something about it!

The title of Andrew’s post, Health Tips for Programmers, is somewhat reminiscent of this gem that’s been floating about “The Internets” for years: Sex Tips for Geeks, written by none other than Eric S. Raymond. See if you can read the chapter titled On Being Good in Bed without having this internal monologue:

Must…fight…mental image…of ESR…doing it…”

AIEEEEEE! Mental image winning! Mental image winning!”

I can’t.


Tuesday’s “Ignite Your Career”: Industry Insights and Trends

ignition_switch As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ignite Your Career is Microsoft’s webcast series on career, skills and personal development. Having a plan and “sharpening your saw” are two of your three best hedges in these uncertain economic times, and they’re what Ignite Your Career is all about.

(In case you were wondering, the third hedge is to have a solid network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances in your areas of interest. That’s what gatherings like EnergizeIT, DemoCamp and Coffee and Code are for.)

Ignite Your Career is about your career and “skills portfolio”, so the topics covered in our webcasts aren’t Microsoft-specific. No matter what platform(s) you work on, no matter if you’re a developer, sysadmin, administrator or manager, if you work in technology, you’ll find value in Ignite Your Career. As for Microsoft, we’re part of the tech ecosystem, and an ecosystem with vibrant, thriving techies is a healthy one, regardless of the tech they choose.

The first Ignite Your Career webcast takes place this Tuesday, March 3rd, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Eastern and the topic will be Industry Insights and Trends. Here’s the abstract:

The nature of technology is one of continual change; a fact of life for professionals in the ICT industry. As a result, you need to be on top of what is happening in the industry in order to position yourself and your organization to benefit from these trends. This panel discussion will arm you with the information you need from experts in the ICT industry in order to stay on top of your game.

Here are the speakers:

joel_semeniuk Joel Semeniuk
Joel Semeniuk is a founder of Imaginet, a Canada-based Microsoft Gold Partner. He is also a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP in Team System, and INETA speaker, and has a degree in Computer Science.
jeff_kempiners Jeff Kempiners
Jeff Kempiners is Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Avanade Canada. As CTO, Jeff is responsible for the strategic direction and adoption of the Avanade Solutions Portfolio within Avanade Canada. A seasoned leader, Jeff has more than 12 years of experience in IT management and consulting.

Jay Payette
Jay Payette has been consulting public and private organizations in the field of technology for over 5 years. He currently works for the Ottawa office of Accenture in the Systems Integration and Technology practice.


All Ignite Your Career webcasts are absolutely free of charge. You’ll need a Windows Live ID (also free; if you have MSN Hotmail, MSN Messenger or Passport, you already have a Windows Live ID) to sign up to see the webcast.

Some links you might find useful:


“Everything is Amazing Right Now, and Nobody’s Happy”

Over at Kevin Kelly’s blog, The Technium, there’s a video of an amusing interview on Conan O’Brien where comedian Louis CK talks about how we take today’s technology and the way it improves our lives for granted. Kelly describes it as "a cartoon version of a more serious argument that we become blind to progress".


Toronto Coffee and Code #2 at Le Gourmand

This article originally appeared in the Coffee and Code blog.

Yesterday’s Toronto Coffee and Code took place at Le Gourmand, a Parisian-style cafe near the Queen West/Spadina intersection, at the nexus of Chinatown, the funky boutique district and “clubland”. The neighbourhood is peppered of warehouses converted to offices that house a lot of “creative class” and geek offices. The area is a prime location for a Coffee and Code, and you can bet that I’ll host some more there.


The Coffee and Code took place immediately after another geek gathering, the Toronto Developer Lunch, a gathering of local geeks and techies for dim sum and conversation. A number of us went straight from the lunch to Le Gourmand.


This time, a couple of my fellow Microsofties joined me: Rodney Buike, IT Pro Evangelist, and David Crow, Startup Evangelist. Rodney brought some “I’m a PC” stickers with him and handed them out; even one of the Mac owners in the group even asked for a sticker!

At peak, there were ten other people, making our grand total a lucky 13.


Among the many conversation topics:

  • ASP.NET MVC. I’ve been working my way through the “alpha” edition of Apress’ book, Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework, and have been enjoying it. We talked about the differences between ActiveRecord and LINQ to SQL – while ActiveRecord made ORM dirt-easy, LINQ to SQL offers some additional expressive power.
  • David Crow and I talked about SQL Server, which is a bit of a change from our days in the open source world, where we’d typically use MySQL. SQL Server takes some getting used to after years of MySQL, but it’s a damned good database.
  • The Lost and Damned, Grand Theft Auto IV’s downloadable new chapter, which may be the first game to feature male full frontal nudity.
  • Windows Mobile development. I showed a dumb little “Hello World” application running in both the emulator on my machine and on my Palm Treo Pro. It’s part of my project to create a series of blog articles on writing apps for Windows Mobile phones and devices.
  • Next week’s DemoCamp. David and I talked about the return of Toronto’s show-and-tell event for the tech community and the presentations that will take place.
  • Visual Studio 2008. I fired it up and gave a quick demo.
  • Le Gourmand’s chocolate chip cookies. The best in town!
  • Game development in XNA and The Unfinished Swan. The Unifinished Swan is a game being prototyped in XNA and is an interesting combination of first-person shooter and painting game.
  • Ruby, IronRuby, Python and IronPython.
  • The upcoming Ignite Your Career webcast and EnergizeIT cross-country tour.
  • The people we know who’ve been sent to the “body cavity search room” at U.S. Customs. The moral of the story: if you want to maintain anal sovereignty, be on your best behaviour at the border.
  • Exploding office chairs. I think I’m going to work on the couch from now on.
  • Hackers, which was recently on Space (Canada’s sci-fi channel).
  • Johnny Mnemonic, another movie from around the same time as Hackers, and another movie that depicts the internet using a fly-by through a vector graphics cityscape.
  • …and so many other conversation topics that were out of earshot.


All in all, the second Toronto Coffee and Code was a success. Stay tuned for an announcement of next week’s event!


Today: Coffee and Code, and Other Geeky get-Togethers

This article originally appeared in Coffee and Code.

The cast of "Hackers"

Coffee and Code is happening today, Tuesday, February 24th, from about 1:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m. at Le Gourmand, (152 Spadina, on the west side, south of Queen and north of Richmond).

It’s not the only geeky get-together in Toronto today:

  • The Developer Lunch (the 10th so far!) takes place today at Noon at Sky Dragon restaurant, on the top floor of Dragon City mall, at the southwest corner of Spadina and Dundas.
  • Later this evening, I’ll be at HacklabTO’s open lab, which takes place every Tuesday night. I’m bringing the Xbox 360 with me, although the Rock Band kit will have to wait for some other night.
  • Also tonight is FacebookCamp 5, a.k.a. Facebook Developer Garage. It’s at MaRS and starts at starts at 6:30. Admission is free.
  • UX Book Club Toronto is meeting tonight at C’est What at 6:30 p.m.. Tonight’s book: user experience guru Bill Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design.