Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Copy Full Path for Windows XP

I'm missing the "Copy Full Path" feature from Windows Explorer in Vista now that I'm back in WinXP land. And that's where Copy Path to Clipboard comes into play.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

DECS, Day 1

Yesterday was my final day at UniSA - spent out at Mawson Lakes doing handover with Damien, Brad and Richard. I also caught up with Brook, who's a bit of a shibboleth expert amongst other things.

Today was my first day at the Department of Education and Children's Services (or DECS for short). I guess it's pretty normal to make comparisons, but here's what I've noticed so far:

  • Nice, friendly people (though it is different working on a floor with heaps of other people, compared to a small team).
  • Good induction experience.
  • Lots of documentation and things to learn/remember.
  • Weird using WinXP with 1Gb ram and a single small monitor. Most other people have dual monitors and 2Gb, so I might ask if there's any chance I can get a hardware refresh.
  • My login and email were all ready and waiting for me (that is impressive) which meant I could get started straight away.
  • There's no tea or coffee or milk - everyone brings their own! Might be easier (and healthier) to stick with water.
  • I do have Admin access to my PC (wasn't sure if I would get that)
  • The image they refreshed my PC with must be a couple of years old, as a fair bit of my time was spent installing patches and updates.
  • Visual InterDev and Visual Studio 2003 - Not something I ever thought I'd be using again, but there you go. They're talking about Visual Studio 2008 coming soon - not soon enough I say!
  • Sounds like some people do ride to work (and there is a shower), but I'm not sure if there's any lockers.
  • I'll have to figure out what time the tram goes past to get to the train station on time.
  • They're using SQL 2000 with Reporting Services, so I'll be sure to give the Adelaide SQL User Group talks a plug. Not that I think they'll be moving to SQL 2008 anytime soon, but it's good to know what's possible.
  • Interesting experience with Internet access. There's no obvious proxy server, but some sites are blocked (Facebook is one example). They're also not too keen on IM by the looks of things.
  • One of my colleagues mentioned to me that our manager is probably the best he's worked with. That's encouraging to hear.

So it was a pretty full on day. Certainly a huge change from what I was used to, but I think it's going to work out ok. And as I said before, the people seem really nice, which helps a lot too.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Light reading update

Last month I ordered a few books to add to my "programmers" library.

A few days later, I added an extra title to my order:

Because MCPD 70-547 Exam Prep: Microsoft Certified Web Application Developer Exam (by Amit Kalani) was supposed to be published by 30 March, my order was held over, however when 1st April came around and it still wasn't available, Amazon kindly split my order and sent the first three books.

It still wasn't available a few weeks later, so they shipped the Facts and Fallacies book and gave me the option of cancelling my order for the remaining book.

Seeing as I have an exam voucher that expires June 30, I'd like to get some study material before that date to give me a good chance of passing. So I did cancel the Kalani book and I've gone with the Microsoft Press book instead - MCPD Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-547): Designing and Developing Web-Based Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework.

Even if not all the reviews of this book are glowing, at least it has actually been published!

Coming soon - my reviews of these books....

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Software on my desktop

Following on from my list of Firefox extensions, here's a list of the applications I've been using on my work PC:

XP SP3 and Gmail via IMAP with Thunderbird

I've just reinstalled the home PC (it was running XP Pro through a work license), but as Monday is my last day at UniSA and I plan to keep the hardware, all UniSA-licensed software has to go.

Fortunately, the box came with an OEM license for XP Home, and the timing was pretty good in that XP SP3 is being released. I still had access to a MSDN subscription, so managed to download it a few days earlier than the general public.

Reinstalling was relatively painless, and it is nice to have a nice clean OS again, without years of accrued bits and pieces slowing it down.

One thing I did need to wire up again was getting Thunderbird talking to my GMail account. The basic instructions are listed in the GMail Help Center, but there's also these additional steps to better hook up the Spam and Junk Mail folders.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Job hunting

This is a bit of a quick summary of my job hunting this year. While I have been making notes of these things over this period, I felt it best to save them up and post them in one hit.

10-Jan

Met up with Darren Neimke, and had a good chat about opportunities at Readify. Sounded encouraging.

15-Feb

Contacted Darren and he put me in touch with Toni-Anne Collins.

6-Mar

Heard back from Toni-Anne, and had long Skype interview with her. That all went well, and so the next step would be a technical interview.

Also went into Candle ICT to meet with Debbie Hendrie and Rowan. Had a good chat and sounds like they have some opportunities.

I also should mention that Candle are sponsors of the Adelaide SQL User Group, and Rowan is regularly seen at the meetings. Debbie had also provided us with a number of contract programmers previously.

11-Mar

Sent email to Sylvia (UniSA HR) challenging 75% match to position in ISTS. If this is successful, then I would be eligible for a redundancy.

17-Mar

Had 1.5 hour technical interview with Chris Burrows from Readify. Quite gruelling and in-depth. I felt pretty happy, though there were a few areas that I stumbled on.

Talked to Paul Turner about his experiences with Readify. He's now working for SDM and asked if I could send through my resume.

Heard back from Ursula at SDM, and arranged an interview with them

20-Mar

SDM Interview with Emmanuel Bresson and David Sampson. Seemed to go quite well, and had a good discussion about what I'd been up to, and how SDM worked. Certainly a possibility, though they don't have flexible work arrangements.

19-Mar

Contact Andy at Evergreen IT about a VB.NET and SQL 3 month contract. Passed to Sam who then arranged an interview with client - WorkCover SA

25/26-Mar

Ursula from SDM sent me their practical test. I ended up doing it on the Wednesday night. It took a little longer than I was expecting, but probably because I'm not very familiar with the Enterprise Template Library data access block classes. I still have trouble seeing what benefit they give to your app - especially compared to something like NHibernate.

26-Mar

Toni-Anne from Readify called to say I passed their technical interview (which only 10% manage to do apparently) - cool! They want to hire me, but they not quite ready yet. This suits me fine, as I'm still waiting to find out if I can get a package or not from UniSA, and some short-term contract work might be just the thing to fill in the gap between leaving UniSA and when Readify are ready.

27-Mar

Interview with Stuart and Heidi from WorkCover SA. Apparently still using .NET 1.1/Visual Studio 2003 and SQL 7.0. Surprisingly, position is actually 6 month contract, with more of a support focus initially, with some development work in the future. They do sound like a very traditional IT shop. Curiously, their main system was developed by SDM! I asked if they were using any unit testing frameworks (eg. NUnit), but they didn't think they were. I'm guessing they probably aren't doing TDD then!

Afterwards I decided that Evergreen were a little too enthusiastic with stretching the facts about this interview (and I think WorkCover might agree with that sentiment).

Also followed up Sylvia in UniSA HR - sounds like my challenge to 75% match will be refused - I'm not that surprised, it was a long shot. At least that's finished now.

31-Mar

Somehow SDM thought the email with my my practical solution was spam, so they only just found it today. Kind of surprised about that seeing as I've configured SPF for the gardiner.net.au domain. I'm guessing their spam filters need some tweaking?

2-Apr

Had a look at positions listed on SEEK, and decided to send my details to Icon and The Tennyson Group. Heard back from both of them shortly after. I'd had fleeting contact with Tennyson years ago.

10-Apr

Saw Rowan at SQL User Group, and asked about any vacancies. Rang Candle after the meeting and spoke with Calvin who forwarded details of a contract position at ESRI. Also discovered that Debbie had left Candle.

14-Apr

Heard that Education.au might be looking for people (via Rob Farley)

Rang Candle to let Rowan know about Perry Wheeler from Adelaide Uni (but apparently he already had his name), and spoke with Calvin about ESRI position update.

15-Apr

Call from Graham Palmer at Tennyson Group about a position at Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC).

17-Apr

Met with Graham. Really nice chat, and discovered we had some common history too.

Interview with Ernie Sullivan, Leah van Hemert and James Couper at AWBC. Went well, and seem like nice people. They're using .NET 2.0 and TFS, so pretty modern. It does sound like they have a heap of work to do in a short space of time though (eg. they asked of my availability for overtime)

18-Apr

Calvin rang to say that the Department of Education and Children's Services (DECS) would like to interview me on Monday.

21-Apr

Interview with DECS at 9am. Nice people, and good environment, with standard work hours. Still using .NET 1.1 and SQL 2000. Planning to upgrade to .NET 3.5 (3.0?) soonish.

Offered DECS position that afternoon and accepted. Will find out if I can cope without generics for a while!

Rang Graham at Tennyson to let him know I was no longer available. Found out that AWBC had also offered me their position.

Heard back from SDM that they decided they needed a junior programmer at the moment.

22-Apr

Sent farewell email to UniSA colleagues. Some kind and generous replies received.

So there you go. I've tried to be pretty open and honest about all the people and organisations I've had contact with during this process. It has certainly been an interesting experience.

I must say that it is quite nice going into an interview feeling like you do have something to offer, and especially in the current labour market where there does seem to be a bit of a skills shortage. It's certainly a different story to when I finished Uni in the mid-90's when graduate programmer jobs were as rare as hen's teeth.

So now off into the world of contracting for a while. I think this will give me a chance to learn a whole lot of new things and provide some valuable experience for the future (especially if the Readify position does eventuate later this year).

Farewell Dat and Jagruti

I found out this morning that Dat has accepted a position at a private company in Adelaide. Dat is the brains behind some of our highest-profile applications - AssignIT (assignment submission), SET & CEI & TellUS2 (various survey tools) amongst others.

Jagruti is also finishing up after working on a new application for disability service support. Her new position will (in the short term at least) will be a bit different. She and her husband are expecting their first child very soon!

So with the exception of Michael (who will remain to continue multimedia development) and Gary (who is leaving in a few months), all the developers from Online Services "have now left the building."

Monday, 21 April 2008

Farewell Me

You might have guessed this was in the pipeline - I've just accepted a contract position at the Department of Education and Children's Services.

As a consequence, I've also just given my resignation from UniSA. It's a funny day, as technically today my position transferred to ISTS out at Mawson Lakes. Being on leave at the moment though meant that this hasn't had any relevance so far.

I've got mixed feelings - excited about new things, but sad about leaving colleagues and friends, and the opportunity that was lost by the less-than-optimal handling of our team through our restructure.

I'm hoping to start the new position next week, but that will depend on successfully negotiating an early departure time (compared to the standard two weeks notice).

I'll be doing a separate post on my experiences of job-hunting (in case you are interested in the gory details)

Farewell RJ

I also found out on Friday that RJ has accepted a position at Alcidion. I hope they realise they're getting some quality talent.

Amongst other things, I believe they're happy to accept the fish tank too!

Farewell Murray, Warren, Online Services and FLC-IT

Friday was a day of goodbyes. First off at City West campus was an official farewell for Murray Barr, who has been at UniSA (and it's predecessors) for over 30 years.

Warren Willsmore was also acknowledged as he is leaving to work with a paraplegic foundation (Warren, sorry I can't remember the proper name).

I've worked with both of these guys, and they will be greatly missed.

Following that, "Antidisestablishmentarianism" Drinks were held at the Garage Bar. This was a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues and mark the end of the Online Services and FLC-IT teams.

As was said on the night "all our applications and systems have been running well this year, so beware of anyone trying to cast blame on us if things suddenly go funny from now on".

Remember one of my favourite phrases - "Not a culture of blame!"

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

School holiday outings

It's School Holidays in South Australia, and that just happens to coincide with me still being on leave. Yesterday, seeing as the car was booked in for a service, I suggested we might all head into the city to see the sights. It was going to be a lovely fine day too.

After dropping off the car, we caught the train into the city, which the kids enjoyed (especially going through the tunnels).

A note for the future: the museum doesn't open until 10am, and there's not a lot else open before then! Some pre-packed morning tea saved the day however.

Once it opened, the museum was good. The kids enjoyed looking at the animal displays, and they are still talking about the giant squid.

There's also a train display in Rundle Mall, including a free Thomas train ride, which was a bit of a hit.

We had a bit of time to kill before lunch so I crazily suggested we have a look through Toys R Us while telling the kids we weren't going to buy anything. Amazingly, the kids were happy to browse, but didn't kick up a fuss when we left without any new acquisitions.

Time for lunch (hotdogs and donuts) then a walk back to the station to catch the next train home.

This is where things could have gone horribly wrong. A combination of pregnant wife and two tired kids plus the fact that because the car was still being serviced, we had to catch a bus home, but that meant a 1.5km walk home from the bus stop. You would think this is a recipe for disaster, except for the fact that there just happens to be a park with a playground half-way.

So after a short stop to recharge batteries/try out the slides and swings, we made it home in one piece.

The whole day was a really enjoyable, and we all a great time. Not every family outing is like this, but it is nice to have a good one every now and again!

Friday, 11 April 2008

ASP.NET and ADO.NET 3.5 Beta Exams

In the latest MCP newsletter, it mentioned that new .NET 3.5 exams are on their way. Curious to know whether there were any beta exams available, I did a quick search and found Gerry O'Brien's blog. That looks like a good one to stay subscribed to.

The good news is I've managed to book both 70-562 (Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Application Development) and 70-561 (Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ADO.NET Application Development) exams. The bad news is that I think I've taken up the last two slots for these left in Adelaide.

The bad news is that as examination is done by Prometric there are only two exam centres listed for Adelaide - Excom and Dimension Data. The exams are only available until 4th May, but when I was scheduling mine, it only listed Excom as having two free days left. Thanks to me, those days are probably taken now.

I'd also love to know why Prometric doesn't allow filtering the test site list by State. I might fire off an email to them to ask about that.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Adelaide International Cello Festival

I'm sure this will be of interest to all you .NET programmers - have you heard about the 2008 Adelaide International Cello Festival?

The main programme runs from Friday 11th - Sunday 20th April.

This is totally out of my league, but I might see if I can go and catch one or two things. Nothing like seeing experts in their field to inspire you.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Hooray for Ben

Looks like UniSA's loss is Flinders University's gain - Ben has accepted a position there, seeing as UniSA didn't want to hang on to him.

This is fantastic for Ben, and I'm really pleased for him - apart from being a whole lot more convenient for him to get to work!

Hill Climb 2008

Last month, members of the Blackwood Hills Baptist Church Bike Club had a Hill Climb race in Belair National Park.

Turns out none other than my Dad won on handicap! Check out some nice photos of the day (including a few with Dad, though they didn't manage to get one of him crossing the finish line).

Monday, 7 April 2008

Friday, 4 April 2008

Change Management Final

Yesterday, the final "Managing Change Plan" for the Flexible Learning Centre was released, as far as the areas that aren't being disputed by the NTEU.

A quick read has revealed that my position will transfer to ISTS on April 21st. I'm currently on leave until mid-May so I'm not expecting that to affect me much. There's also a review and evaluation of the whole process scheduled in 12 months time - that will make interesting reading.

One other thing I learned last week was that there's no chance of me getting a redundancy package instead of my position moving. I figured this might be the case, but when $$$s are involved you want to make sure.

Having a break has been a good thing though:

  • Time to do some jobs around home (including getting ready for G3's arrival next month)
  • Taking the kids to school/sport.
  • Spending a bit more time with the kids before the new baby arrives.
  • Appreciation of what Narelle has been doing getting the kids ready every morning when I would normally be heading off to work.
  • Allowed Narelle to pick up some part-time work doing flu vaccinations at the local GP clinic.
  • Visiting Ikea and assembling various pieces of recently-purchased furniture.
  • Considering my work options (which almost certainly mean leaving UniSA for greener pastures)

As I've said to a couple of people already, you definitely know you're on holidays when you start to lose track of what day it is!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

{Year} of the {Hero}

I don't know who thought of it first, but it looks like if you're running a conference or product launch this year, you need to include "Hero" in the title.

Microsoft have been running their Heroes Happen {here} launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 over the last few months.

Now I've just received an email from IBM telling me about their Rational Software Development Conference - "Where teams are R-Heroes" (no, I'm not making this up).

And like Microsoft, IBM Rational have names for their R-Heroes too.

I think this just goes to show how bad things can get when the marketing guys have too much spare time.

And what's up with those curly braces? If we had some VB events, should they have named it "Heroes Happen Begin Here End Here" ?