Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Azure Tech Jam + Time With Family

I attended the Azure Tech Jam (check here for the upcoming events) here in Charlotte last week, and it was great day all around. Not only did Brian Hitney and Jim O'Neil deliver the goods on Azure and answer some questions for me about an application I have been working on in the cloud, I was able to attend the event with my oldest son, Alex, who has been experimenting with C# and programming in general.

I am finding as kids get older, it is more of a challenge to find time and things to do together, and so spending the day at this event was a lot of fun. As a bonus, my son managed to win the afternoon's Rock Paper Azure competition, beating me and a dozen or so other local attendees in a rock-paper-scissors++ competition in the cloud, and taking home the XBox 360 Kinect package (to the cheers and admiration of his brothers)! Definitely a good day and one we will both remember. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Big Fun @ CodeCamp

This weekend was Code Camp here in Charlotte at the CPCC campus in Matthews, and I had a really good time both attending and presenting. I made new friends, linked up with some old friends, and was able to hang out with some very smart and interesting folks for a day.

I gave a talk on HTML5 graphics (which included this little demo) in the morning, and we had about 30 folks who seemed to enjoy listening to the talk as much as I did presenting it, so thank you all for coming!

My afternoon session was on the upcoming Charlotte GiveCamp, and while that did not have as many folks attending, I spoke to people all day about it, especially other speakers, and everyone was universally excited and interested. I pointed a lot of people to the site, and I am working this week on reaching out to additional charities in the area, so stay tuned for more information.

Big thanks go out to the folks at the Developers Guild for yet another great CodeCamp.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Charlotte GiveCamp

I have taken the first steps to getting a GiveCamp going here in Charlotte, and I am pretty excited about it. Our site is up and running now at Charlotte GiveCamp.

For people who don't know, GiveCamp is a weekend event where developers in a city donate their time and expertise to creating web sites and custom software for local non-profits. There hasn't been one in the Carolinas before, and this is also my first experience trying to organize an event like this, but I have already gotten some great responses from local developers and from Microsoft, so I am very excited about putting this together.

My good friend Eric Eicke, one of the best developers I know, is on board, and Brian Hitney our regional Developer Evangelist has let me know that Microsoft will help out, so I invite any developers reading this to get in touch, and we will be reaching out to the local user groups and non-profits soon to help get this thing rolling!

RPA Update - EvilTwiki Lands 3rd

Well, my modifications for the EvilTwiki bot in last week's RPA run were good enough for a 3rd place finish, which I consider a pretty good showing.

I based my changes on an idea that my kids suggested early in the competition: figure out what the other bots are doing and then stop that. Seems simple enough, but it went right over my head until later in the week when I noticed that I could check the TeamName property of the opponent's IPlayer interface. That meant I could craft a different strategy for the bots that did something special or tricky, and in effect, play the man (bot) not the cards.

So, I wrote one basic strategy that could beat about 4 out of 5 bots, and the more sophisticated ones got more specific strategies that countered what they were doing... Not as elegant as writing an optimal rock-paper-scissors-dynamite-water balloon algorithm, but still pretty effective!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

RPA Week 2

I have made a few modifications to the EvilTwiki bot this week to try to grab that #1 prize, or at least a shot in the top 3 of the weekly RPA run....

Last week I finished 8th, and was actually in 2nd place for one brief shining moment. For a simple game, its surprisingly complicated to write a bot that can beat all comers, so I am trying a different strategy this week. Round 2 ends tomorrow, so I will come back with details, win or lose!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rock Paper Azure

I was looking for local contacts at Microsoft to help with an idea, and I checked out Brian Hitney's blog too find something very cool: Rock Paper Azure. Needless to say, I know what I am doing this evening. I already have a name for my bot: EvilTwiki! More as soon as my bot is in the cloud...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canvas Phantom Zone

Most of my work with the HTML5 canvas in recent months has been to deal with a specific customer, and a new product that we are developing. But while I am getting my hands dirty, I try to look for interesting tricks that I can do with the canvas as well.  Having been impressed by a bunch of very cool samples, I decided to try my hand at a simple one.

Anyone close to my age (guess it if you can) had to be impressed with the movie Superman II, one of the all time great superhero movies. And I was always impressed with the phantom zone scenes, with the trapped Kryptonians in space.

So, take a slow afternoon, a few lines of Javascript code, the power of the HTML5 canvas, and a little video assistance from three of my sons, and I give you the HTML5 Canvas Phantom Zone...

This boils down to a hidden video tag which is being used as a dynamic image, drawn onto the canvas, transformed and rotated in a timeout function. What took the supercomputers of 1980 is now an afternoon project in a browser...