In a recent blog post, Scott Hanselman writes about a topic that I have always felt strongly about – honoring those who have helped us in our lives.  He writes about how he got to where he is now, noting that if it were not for the help of his parents and some teachers, his life might be quite different.  He suggests that we do the same, blogging about how we got to where we are.  And he mentions Paying It forward.


I’ve always like the concept of Pay It Forward.  This can mean different things to different people. But here is how it fits into my career…


As a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  Some people seemed to know right away what they wanted to do for a living and that always frustrated me.  I guess around junior year in high school we start looking into colleges.  Time to pick a school, a major, and possibly a career that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.  I had no idea what to do.  I wasn’t a great student in the first place.  I spoke to some friends and family and decided that Communications seemed like a good major. 


Through college I worked at a movie theatre and decided that I wanted to put my degree in Communications to work in the film industry (distribution, not production).  It took a while but a few years after college I got a break and was off to work at Sony Pictures Releasing (at the time called Triumph Releasing). 


I was always interested in computers and programming but didn’t have a head for all of the math back in high school or college.  But at work I looked for ways to get involved with technology and I liked it more and more.  I worked with Spreadsheets, Access Databases, helped with Operating System issues…whatever I could do to get some kind of experience.  I was loving technology.  I taught myself about Access databases, the best I could do on my PC with no programming experience, and wrote some cool programs using VBA.  I couldn’t have done it without the help of friends.  In particular, my friend Marc spent a lot of time explaining stuff like programming and database normalization to me.  He often jokes how we’d sit on the beach and he’d be checking out the girls but I kept asking him about problems with the programs I was writing!   I guess my inner geek had been released.  But Marc always made time to help me.  And he encouraged me too.  While I was having fun with programming, he seemed to think I had some real abilities and encouraged me to change careers.  Other people helped too.  My friend Doug had a lot of experience with Access DB’s.  I emailed him with some questions and he went above and beyond and really helped me with the programs I was writing.  I was really surprised at the amount of time and support he gave me.   People, some that I didn’t know very well, went out of their way to help me learn and they got nothing in return.  It was very generous. 


Fast forward to around mid 2002.  I had been working as a programmer for a few years doing Java, JSP, PL/SQL, etc and had been hearing about Microsoft .Net.  It sounded really good to me.  I started reading some books and took on a side project.  Marc suggested that I check out Philly.Net telling me that I could learn a lot at the meetings. At my first meeting I was lost.  Some guy was talking about a bunch of stuff that was way over my head.  And then it happened.  As a side note, sort of unrelated to what he was really doing, the presenter said “oh by the way, did you know you could do this…”.  The “this” that followed was something I had been struggling with for weeks.  My problem was solved with a 30 second comment that wasn’t even related to the presentation! From there I was hooked on Philly.Net.  I attended many great presentations and picked up a lot of knowledge.  If it were not for Bill running Philly.Net, and all of the presenters who shared their expertise, I would not have progressed as quickly with my career.


A few years later, Bill Wolff started asking for help with Philly.Net.  I volunteered and now I am pretty involved with helping Bill run the group.  I’m often asked why I put so much time and effort into our community.  I see it as Paying It Forward.  Many people have helped me a long the way with my career.  Some directly, some indirectly.  Now I get a chance to help other people with their careers.  I’ve mentored several people in .Net and I put a lot of effort into making sure that the Philadelphia .Net Community is strong so that people can learn and share information.  Now I realize that the people who helped me did in fact get something in return.  They got the pride and satisfaction that comes from helping other people.  It’s a nice feeling.

With the baby on the way, it’s time to buy a camcorder.  This is proving to be much more difficult than I thought.

I was really excited about this.  I love gadgets and electronics and I’m pretty handy with them.  There are all kinds of “gadget-guy types” out there and I am a combination of two of them.  First, I have that “gadget instinct” – I can usually pick up a device and not only figure out how to make it work but instinctually tap into the high end features.  On many occasion I have helped a friend with a device that they own but I have never seen before.  Second, I actually read the manual.  I’m such a geek.  But I like to know what my equipment can do, especially when it comes to something complicated like a camcorder.  Also, I have some experience with this stuff.  I used to shoot and edit videos (some professional stuff and a LOT of weddings).  But that was at least 15 years ago and a lot has changed.  And I have owned a few camcorders too but the last was probably 8 years ago.  So I have experience but I’m seriously out of the loop.

The first and probably biggest decision is format.  MiniDV, DVD, or HDD? 

It seems like MiniDV (little tape) is the popular standard.  The downside is that they are slow to put onto the computer and you can’t quickly access different portions of video.  The upside is that the picture quality is supposed to be the best, which seems odd to me.  It sure would seem like the quality on a DVD or Hard Drive would be better but I guess the camera use more compression with those formats.  Plus, you can only play these back with the camera, unless you migrate them and burn DVDs.  It seems that this technology is old and on the way out.

DVD seemed like a cool option.  Shoot video and stick it into your DVD player – couldn’t be easier.  But this has drawbacks too.  It seems that this doesn’t work with all editing software.  And some reviews say you need to “finalize” the DVD before watching it, and then you can’t put it back in the camera to shoot more vide.  But, some people have told me this isn’t true.  Maybe the newer models work differently…I don’t know.  Plus, DVD has a short time span, I think 20-30 minutes on a DVD.  That could be a pain but probably not too often.

At first, Hard Drive (HDD) seemed like a bad idea to me because of the durability issue.  But many people seem to think that these portable hard drives are pretty strong.  It makes me a little nervous.  But the cool part is that you can store hours of video on the camera.  I was really surprised to read the the manufacturers use a lot of compression though, so the quality isn’t the best.  But it’s really easy to move files between the camera and the PC for editing and storage.  I still can’t figure out if these formats work well with editing software.  I think that this format will catch on and some of the issues it will get better quickly.  But I am leaning in this direction.

Next comes the HD question.  HD is cool, no doubt.  But is it worth the extra money?  Buying electronics is always depressing because as soon as you buy something it is outdated and replaced by a better, cheaper model.  I am sure this is the case with the HD cameras.  They are still quite a bit more expensive then the regular models.  I don’t know if it is worth a few hundred dollars extra yet, when all of the kinks haven’t been worked out yet.  Plus, I don’t know if I can edit the HD video with the same software.

Features, features, features.  There are so many options on these things that it is tough to weigh out all the pros and cons.  Some people like just the basics.  But I think I’ll use some of the advanced settings.  I have a digital camera and I am always playing with the exposure time and aperture to tweak my photos.

So here is what I want in my Camcorder… so far.

    • Size – Small to Mid sized.  Doesn’t need to be tiny, but nothing too large.
    • Format – I think I am leaning towards Hard Drive (HDD)
    • High Def – NOPE, I think I’ll wait on that.
    • Video Quality – High
    • Features – Bells and Whistles include:
      • Good battery life
      • Wide Screen Format
      • Manual Control (focus, white balance, etc)
      • View finder would be nice (for sunny day shooting)
      • Good image stabilization
      • Good in low light
      • Mic and headphone jack
      • etc
    • Editing:  Must be compatible with typical editing software and not limited to manufacturers proprietary editing software.

And the winner is… I still have no idea!  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Mitch Ruebush is starting a new User Group for Software Architects – The Philadelphia Chapter of IASA.  This is a great opportunity to learn and share with other Software Architects.  Everyone is welcome, so check it out. 

Here’s the text from an email he sent me:


You are invited to IASA – Philadelphia’s first meeting on February 6th,
2008 at the Microsoft Malvern office. We have set up an official IASA
Web site at http://www.iasahome.org/web/Philadelphia/home to provide
more information on IASA and the Philly chapter. Please use this site to
keep up with the Philadelphia IASA community.



Agenda:
Refreshments & Network
Introductions
What do you want from an architecture professional group?
How do you want to help?


Topic:
What is Architecture?
Join us for a moderated discussion on the practicalities of what IT
architecture is. We will discuss what is the meaning of IT architecture,
roles and responsibilities, approaches to IT architecture, common
architecture processes and artifacts and what should be in the
architecture toolkit.


Moderator:
Mitch Ruebush is the Architecture Team Leader at ING DIRECT, fsb. He is
responsible for defining and coordinating the architecture for the
applications and infrastructure at ING DIRECT. He has written a number
of books and articles on .Net and enjoys spending his time as a father
of two great kids, a hobbyist film maker, playing piano and saxophone
and trying to write a video game.
Date: Feb. 6th, 2008
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm


Location:
Microsoft
Great Valley Corporate Center
45 Liberty Blvd., Suite 210
Malvern, PA 19355



IASA (International Association of Software Architects) is the premier
association focused on the IT architecture profession through education,
advocacy, events, and the development of best practices.






 Big Crowds at Code CampCode Camp 2008.1 on January 12, 2008 was, in my opinion, the best Code Camp Philly.Net has ever had. This is supported by the comments of many of our attendees. We are very grateful to DeVry University The DeVry Teamin Fort Washington, PA for hosting this event. Their top-notch facility really made the day special for the crowd of around 350 people. Not only did DeVry generously allow us to use their campus for Code Camp, but they had staff on hand to help out and make the day great. It was really nice working with them.  Also a special thanks to all of the Philly.Net members who helped out setting up Code Camp!


Too long a blog post?  Click to read about Partners, Prizes, Sessions, Feedback 


Our Partners:  Code Camp is only possible thanks to our many partners. Special thanks to our local Microsoft Developer Evangelist , Dani Diaz, for year round support. And we definitely appreciate the support of our other Partners: ComponentOne, Infragistics, Neudesic, RDA, RedGate, CodeBreeze, Spherion and Solid Quality Mentors. It was great working with them all to make this such a successful event.  It was especially fun meeting some of our partners that were on hand for Code Camp.  If you enjoyed Code Camp, I hope you’ll support all our Partners. Click on their logos for more information.


ComponentOneTable2           RDA           NeudesicTable


 


Prizes:  I’d also like to thank our Prize Contributors. While we all attend Code Camp for the great sessions, everyone loves the prizes and giveaways that our partners provide.  Of course, the XBOX-360 from Red-Gate was a big hit. Plus we gave away a ton of other prizes including books and software.  We’ve continued our tradition of spreading out the prizes throughout the day.  Each speaker gets a bag of stuff including a book, a shirt, and a water bottle to give away during each session.  
















Platinum Partners

DeVry
Microsoft


 


Gold Partners


ComponentOne
Infragistics
neudesic
rda
Redgate 


 

Silver Partners
CodeBreeze
Spherion

SolidQuality



























































Company Prizes Provided
Addison Wesley/Sams Lots of Books
Apress Lots of Books
ASP.Net Pro Magazine A copy for everyone
Code magazine A copy for everyone
CodeSmith CodeSmith Licenses
ComponentArt WebUI Licenses
ComponentOne Studio Enterprise Licenses
Dundas Dundas Licenses
JetBrains ReSharper Licenses
O’reilly Lots of Books
Microsoft Lots of Software
Red Gate Software plus an XBOX 360
SQL Server Magazine A discount subscription offer
SteelBlue Solutions CodeBreeze
Wrox Lots of Books
Ndepend Software
Xbox Winner
Code Magazine
Getting Food


Sessions:


Jeff Deville's Session We had an unprecedented 50 sessions at Code Camp!  That included a wide variety of presentation topics split into 8  Kevin Goff's Sessiontracks: Alt.Net, BI, Database, Toolbox, Architecture, Collaboration, Frameworks, and UI.  With presenters with names from Andrews to Ziss presenting a huge variety of topics including:  ASP.Net, Silverlight, Databinding, LINQ, TDD, AJAX, SQL Server, MVC, Katmai, Spring.Net, BizTalk, WCF, IIS 7, Visual Studio, Powershell, Sharepoint, Continuous Integration, Refactoring, Dependency Injection, Reporting Services, T-SQL, Mobile, InfoPath, SubSonic, Exception Handling and more. 


For a full list of presentations, check out this list.


SessionCrowd Jeff Deville Presenting SessionAnnouncements Bill&Rob


It would have been hard to gather this amount of speakers with the help of several other groups in our area: 


PhillyAlt.Net



Philadelphia Area Office Geeks


Philadelphia SQL Server Users’ Group


Northern Delaware .Net User Group


Philadelphia Area SharePoint User Group


Feedback:


I’d like to share some of the feedback that we got from Code Camp.  We got high marks and praises from most of our guests  I’ve included a very small sample below.  In addition, some people pointed out a few areas for improvement.  I tend to agree with a lot of them.  This was a great event and we’ll get it even better next time.







Some of the General Comments



First time to code camp – classrooms worked great. No technical glitches – excellent job. Speakers were able to get up and rolling on time.


Great job! Great Code Camp! I love Code Camp.


Great Location!


Good event, venue and speakers. Would definitely attend future Code Camps.


Overall, this is an excellent venue to get exposed to new tools and ideas. I’m glad the Alt.Net group was included, I think they have a lot to offer, a little unpolished, but that’s cool too. Great!


Great event. Will certainly attend another.



Some of the Presentation Comments


Great speaker, great info. Content “From the horse’s mouth”!


No Slides, all Code, awesome.


This guy was top notch.


Did a great job, especially considering the huge turnout.


Very engaging, dynamic, animated speaker.


Loved it! Superb!!


Really good topic w/very pragmatic approach… will be very useful to me.


Very useful and tightly focused. Speaker was excited about the idea and it shows.


Phenomenal session.


Very useful, Can’t wait to try this out.


A Few Suggestions for Improvement (my comments in [Brackets])



Just need more people to help register – great problem to have at a Code Camp… too many people! Good job. [Yeah, we’ll get that one right next time.]


What, no internet connections? [Unfortunately, DeVry did not have Internet access for us to use.  Maybe we can work something out for next time. ]


Need larger rooms for some talks. [A good problem to have!  Many other conferences have a first come, first served approach like this]


No confirmation until 2 days prior to event. [I agree we should work on that one]


Birds Of a Feather – Good idea, not enough room. [We might need to rethink how we do BOF.  Maybe a longer lunch would help?]


Keep coffee running throughout day please. More veggie food please. Overall awesome event. Thanks to all organizers. [The Veggie Food went pretty quick, sorry about that.  Unfortunately, our Coffee Maker broke pretty early in the day. Luckily DeVry had a Coffee in the vending area]


More cookies! [They sure were good!  I agree.]


Another 5 minutes between sessions would be good. [I like that idea too]


Some speakers too quiet. [This was obviously more of a problem during the really crowded sessions.  Maybe we can look into some microphones.]


Bill and Vanetta
Last Minute Prep for Jon and Jeff
Andy Schwam and Mark MaglioccoDon XML   
Mark Magliocco and Tim Dodd
Lindsay Rutter and Rachel Appel


Marc Ziss, Bill Wolff, Sam Gentile


Mitch Reubush


Big Crowds at Code Camp


*Thanks to Melanie Wright from DeVry and our own Mark Magliocco for providing the photos.

We had a great Code Camp on Jan 12.  I’ve got a longer blog post planned to summarize the event.  I’m gonna work on that next.  But I promised Marc that I’d post his slides from his presentation “Building ASP.NET Dynamic Data Web Sites using LINQ for SQL”.  And to be fair, he sent me this stuff on Jan 14 and I’m finally posting it today.  Sorry to those of you who were waiting for it.  I sat in on this presentation and it was a lot of fun and full of content.  Thanks Marc!

 

He was kind enough to create two versions of the slides:

Slide Deck for Power Point 2003 (.ppt)

Slide Deck for Power Point 2007 (.pptx)