Category Archives: Random

Don’t Skip A Code Review

Does this ever happen to you? You finish coding something up and the very second before you become pleased with yourself you suppress that wonderful feeling and wrestle with the fact that coders aren’t exactly impartial when it comes to judging their own code. You realize you have two options. 1, you can accept the fact that a second pair of eyes can’t hurt and you can go around the office in search of that nonbiased someone who is willing to sit down, review your code and provide honest feedback. Or 2, you can say “to heck with it” and just move on to the next thing. 

I’ll leave you with this – there is value in every code review.  Whether it’s you, or the reviewer, or the project, someone/something is always better off because of a code review.  Next time, don’t avoid a code review.  And who knows?  Maybe you’ll get that chance to be pleased with yourself after all.

Streaming Netflix Media with My Wii

imageLate last year, I wrote about Streaming Media with my Sony Blu-ray Disc Player. I am still digging the Blu-ray player setup but guess what showed up in the mail yesterday?   That’s right!  A free Netflix disc which now let’s me instantly watch TV episodes and movies via my Wii console. 

I popped the disc into the console and in less than 2 minutes the brain-numbingly simple activation was complete.  (Full-disclosure: I already had my Wi-Fi connection configured, but I’m confident that the Netflix installation disc would have helpfully walked me through this additional step if need be.)

As it turns out, the Wii Netflix UI offers far more options than what one gets with the Blu-ray setup.  Not only can I view my Instant Queue, but there’s a list of recently watched movies, a list of recommended titles by category, the star rating system, movies information and nearly everything you find on the web. 

I reread Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability on a flight back from Orlando on Wednesday, so my current view of the world may be a little skewed but, the brilliance of Netflix Wii’s user interface is undeniable. It’s not like the Blu-ray navigation is complicated but the Wii navigation feels familiar and intuitive. How intuitive?  Well, you won’t find a single bit of help text on any of the Wii screens – just a simple and obvious point-and-click navigation system.  And the UI is really pretty (which is still very important if you ask me) and so easy it became fun.

Did I mention the media streaming works!  Yep, we watched 2 half-hour kid videos yesterday without any streaming issues at all.  If you have a Netflix account and a Wii, order your disc and give it a go. It’s good stuff.

Streaming Media with Sony Blu-ray Disc Player

The best gift under the tree this year? A Sony Blu-ray Disc player:

CropperCapture[1]The BDP-N460 allows you to instantly stream thousands of movies, videos and music from the largest selection of leading content providers including Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube, Slacker® Radio and many, many more. Plus, enjoy the ultimate in high-definition entertainment and watch Blu-ray Disc movies in Full HD 1080p quality with HD audio.

The BDP-N460 includes built-in software that makes it easy to connect this player to your existing wireless network.  So I did… I paired the disc player with the recommended Linksys Wireless Ethernet Bridge (WET-610N) and I was streaming the last season of Lost episodes in no time.

Really cool. Highly recommended.

Dell Docking Station Doesn’t Detect USB Mouse and Keyboard

I’ve found myself in this situation with multiple Dell docking stations and multiple Dell laptops running various Windows operating systems.  I don’t know why the docking station stops recognizing my USB mouse and keyboard – it just does.  It’s black magic. 

Dell D/Dock Expansion Station Docking station - PCThe last time around I just starting plugging the mouse and keyboard into the docked laptop directly and went about my business (as if I wasn’t completing missing out on a couple of the core benefits of using a docking station.)  I guess that’s what happens when you forget how you got yourself out of the mess the last time around. 

I had been in this half-assed state for a couple of weeks now, but a coworker fortunately got themselves in and out of the same pickle this morning.  Procrastinate long enough and the solution will just come to you, right?

Here’s how to get yourself out of this mess:

  1. Undock your computer
  2. Unplug your docking station
  3. Count to an arbitrary number greater than 12.  (Not sure this is really required, but…)
  4. Plug your docking station back in
  5. Redock your machine

I put my machine to sleep before taking the aforementioned actions.  My coworker completely shutdown his laptop instead.  The steps worked on both of our Win 7 machines this morning and, who knows, it might just work for you too. 

Forced Learning

If you ask me, it can be a little intimidating to stand in front of a group and walkthrough anything remotely technical. Even if you know “Technical Thingy #52” inside and out, public speaking can be unsettling.  And if you don’t have your stuff together, well, it can be downright horrifying. With that said, if given the choice, I still like to schedule myself to present on unfamiliar topics.

Over the past few months, I’ve talked about Aspect-Oriented Programming, Functional Programming, Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems, Domain-Driven Design and Behavior Driven Development.  What do these topics have in common? You guessed it:

  1. I was truly interested in them.
  2. I had only a superficial understanding of each.

Huh?  Why in the world would I ever want to to put myself in that intimidating situation?

Actually, I rarely want to put myself into that situation but I often do as I like the results.  There’s nothing remotely clever going on here.  All I’m doing is putting myself into a compromising situation knowing that I’ll likely work myself out of it by learning the topic prior to the presentation.  I’m simply time-boxing myself to learn something new while knowing there are negative repercussions if I fall short. So, I end up doing tons of research and I learn bunches to ensure I have my head firmly wrap around the material before my talk. I’m not saying I become an expert overnight (or over a couple of weeks) but I’ll definitely know enough to be confident and comfortable and I’ll know more than enough to ensure the audience will learn a thing or two from me. It’s forced learning and though it might sound a little scary to some, it works for me.

Now I could very easily rename this post to something like Fear Is My Motivator because, in a sense, fear of failure and embarrassment is what’s driving my learning. However, I’m the guy signing up for the presentation and since the entire process is self-imposed I’m not sure Fear deserves too much credit. 


Follow the Follower

The way I understand it, there’s kind of this rule with Twitter. If someone follows you, you go ahead and follow them right back.  It’s very gentlemanly, really.  Someone extends their hand and you shake it…or If I had moves like this guy, I wouldn't be blogging right now.something like that. 

If I may jump from micro-blogging to plain old blogging for a moment, I’ve been thinking about the tens of people who subscribe to my blog. Based on your comments, you’re all heavily into pharmaceuticals, you’re constantly feeling a little randy and you don’t sweat small stuff like the grammar and the spelling. I know little else about you, my quiet army of Ben Worshippers, other than the fact that you have chosen to follow me for who-knows-what reason.

Putting all of your weirdness aside, I wish to exercise proper etiquette and follow you too. If you have a blog or Twitter account or you merely wish to introduce yourself, feel free to send me the details via email or publicly pimp yourself out by leaving a post comment and I will be happy to check you out.

Note: This will be the first and last post of this sort. I haven’t felt this uncomfortable since trying to get a date for the high school dance.

Build Your Own Photomosaic

What’s up with this image? It’s the top left corner of the photomosaic found below. The complete mosaic is composed of hundreds or thousands of individual images arranged as tiles so that they appear as one picture when observed from a distance. The individual images are totally unrelated to each other, but when stitched together, they perfectly (you be the judge) resemble the final image.

You can create your own on using the free Image Photo Mosaic Generator. (Warning: It takes a while.) This tool uses photographs from Flickr to construct the individual tiles so maybe, if you look closely enough, you can find one of your submissions.

What is the mosaic supposed to represent? It’s a screenshot of JohnnyCoder’s 9 Minutes of Fame. The concept is cleverly simple. Submit your RSS feed to 9 Minutes of Fame and you take over the site. The site operates on a first come, first serve basis so be on your toes. Be prepared to submit your feed right after the featured blog’s time has expired. If lady luck is on your side, you will be next to own the spotlight. If enough visitors wind up enjoying your blog, your site may be listed and accessible on the 9 Minute’s home page for days.

Let’s thank Jon Galloway for sharing 9 Minutes of Fame on his blog this weekend.

The Great Spam Experiment

I stumbled across, Phil Bradley’s Great Spam Experiment the other day. In an entertaining, educational and borderline-scientific manner he answered the age-old question — where do we get spam?

First, he went looking for spam. He created about a dozen email accounts which would be publicized through various sites and services. For example, one account posted to a news group whereas another was simply included in an HTML mailto: link on his website.

Next, he waited for the spam to come rolling in — and it did. After about 12 weeks, he categorized the results and published the spam winners and losers.

I won’t ruin the surprise and tell you where the most spam is propagated from (okay, it’s from opting out of emails), but I will say that it was interesting to see that the majority of our spam falls into three categories: Financial, Pornographic and Health. Since Financial was the overall winner, I guess we’re going to have to start saying, “Money and Sex” rather than “Sex and Money.”

My thanks for Mr. Bradley for an entertaining article.