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Flight Time Tracking In The 21st Century

Every pilot works hard to maintain good records of their flight time. Besides being expensive to obtain, the FAA requires that flight time of a certain nature be logged and available for inspection, should it ever be required or questioned. The pertinent regulation gives a description of what information must be logged, but leaves the method up to the individual pilot.

Being a bit of a technologist, I wanted a system for logging flight data that would give me maximum flexibility for manipulating the statistics. And so, my own version of an online flight log was born. I built it using Playdoh, Mozilla’s Django-Plus framework. The application is a very simple CRUD application, but it’s not the input of data that’s interesting; it’s the way it’s displayed.

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Diversifying This Blog

When I began writing this blog back in August of 2008, I stated that I wanted to write about the things that I cared about. At the time that list included a slice of technology, largely focused on the LAMP stack. As I’ve changed over the years, I’ve also increased the things that I care about: family, aviation, travel, Python, cooking, and others. Since I don’t have time to start a blog on all of these topics individually (I’d do nothing but blog!), it only seems natural that I would start writing about them here.

Of course, this means for those of you who read this blog for technology, things will be changing. Technology is no longer the sole focus, but you can still read about technology by visiting the technology category or subscribing to the technology feed. It’s up to you whether or not you want to read blog posts about my cats or my cooking or my flying lessons, but I promise not to tag any of those technology, so that you can get what you want.

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What do you want the web to be?

Five months ago, I had an opportunity to accept a contract to work at Mozilla as part of the webdev team. There was a match for my skills on a contract basis, and even though it meant leaving permanent employment for the uncertain world of contracting, I knew it was something I would never forgive myself if I didn’t engage. I didn’t know then just how right my decision was, but after spending a week in Portland with the team at OSBridge, I was shown just how right my decision had been.

Mozilla, along with Emma, hosted a party during OSBridge. During the party, we asked attendees a simple question: “What do you want the web to be?” A video was compiled with their responses, which you can view here:

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Why I Love Being An Engineer

Laura Thomson posed a question on Twitter, asking what do you like most about being an engineer? I spent a good part of the morning thinking about it, and it’s an interesting question to answer. My answer is simple: it’s the fact that engineering is a creative enterprise, one that requires intense imagination and sometimes lots of sweat, blood and tears.

The greatest inventors of the past were creative, intelligent thinkers who imagined solutions. This to me embodies engineering today. As a software engineer, I’m called upon to answer difficult technical problems that involve creating solutions that require innovation and invention. Engineers are modern-day inventors.

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Validation Blind Spots Hurt Real Users

A friend of mine lives on Bonieta Harrold Drive. I live on a Windsor Hill Drive. Both of us have a problem in common, which is that poorly designed software is incapable of accepting the length of our street address. For me, American Express refuses to accept more than “WINDSOR HILL D”, which still arrives at our home. I can’t imagine if my friend ever got an American Express card, since given the maximum length available for an address, he would live on “BONIETA HARROL”. If you live in a place where direction (e.g. NW, SW, SE) matter, not having enough space can be extraordinarily problematic to the proper delivery of mail and packages if there is not enough room for the whole address.

Clearly, these software systems have a design flaw. That design flaw is that the programmers responsible for programming the software assumed that 20 characters (house number and street information) was long enough for a standard address. It’s likely that in the best case, developers picked 20 characters based on some given experience (e.g. they considered all the street names in their own town in conjunction with known house number lengths, and came to an answer) or worse, simply picked a number out of thin air. Real users are worse off because of it.

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Finding A Job Without A Recruiter

Last week I wrote about all the reasons that recruiters are bad for your career. For a variety of reasons I highlighted the reasons job seekers should avoid enlisting the services of recruiters that solicit them, and the traps that recruiters employ to disadvantage job seekers while improving their odds of collecting a commission.

On more than one occasion, people asked me “if I shouldn’t use recruiters, how should I find a job?” For me, there are a number of strategies I’ve used to find jobs in the past. It’s also worth pointing out that I have never received an offer while using a recruiter, but I have received offers through all of these methods here.

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