Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random Thoughts.

Fun website
I know I have already blogged about http://www.upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbabastart.com/ before, but it has just undergone a re-design and format change. Please check it out. It really made me laugh and the web host says content would be updated frequently.

Wisconsin Badgers
My Badgers have hit a small little road bump here the last week. Two tough losses, one at Michigan State and one at Ohio state. In both games they played really poorly. To make matters worse it seems Brian Butch will be lost four to six weeks. I have full faith in Bo Ryan and the rest of the team to pick up the pace and finish the season strong.

Things on my current project are progressing nicely. We are going to deliver phase one in a few weeks. The Client seems very happy with our results. I will blog more about the project once I can. As of now I am not able to talk about the project in any general terms.

Jury Duty
I have been summand for Jury Duty. I have never done this before, and so I have a chance to learn about the court system. The timing is not great since it will be in mid March. I plan on blogging about all my experiences after I am done. My guess is I wont even get picked.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bars going High Tech? Sooner Than You Think.

I went to visit some friends and we went out to a bar/pub in their area.

It was a new place. The bar had lots of flat screen TVs on the wall along with a nice internet jukebox, and some gaming machines. Behind the bar were fancy touch screen registers and some top shelf alcohol. I noticed on the bottles there were some weird pour caps, nothing I had seen before.

When I asked the bartender about them he explained they had little computer chips in them that talked to the cash registers. The chips would only allow the bottle to pour if the register said it was OK. The chip would also limit the amount of alcohol that was poured to the perfect shot. I did not believe him until he took out a full bottle and tipped it upside down and nothing came out. He then went over to the touch screen and put in my order and then tipped the same bottle and this time the rum came out. To prove his point, after the pour he tipped the bottle over again and nothing came out again.

The bar itself was a solid dark wood nothing to surprising, but all the tables at the place had a little built in touch screen. I was curious about it so I went over to a table where I saw some people using one and asked them about it. They told me, from the screen they could place drink orders or call over a waitress. Also they could use the screens for trivia, games, TV, internet, or even a little text chat with the people at another table. they even said these touch screen were spill proof. Although I did not test this feature for the pubs sake I hope it is true.

OK, so this place does not exist yet, but all these concepts are coming soon.

In England some computer science kids who were tired of waiting for a waitress at a busy pub and did not like standing up at the bar and waiting, thought it would be cool if they could just place and order from there table. They came up with the idea of the touch screens and the ability to do all sorts of things including ordering drinks for other tables, and yes even chatting. Currently the students have one system running at a pub in England where it is being product tested.

Here in the US I have come across the dreaded one pour shot pourer's. We all have a bartender who mixes drinks a little strong or gives out free ones to their buddies. Well with a new RFID system, bar operators can control how much alcohol gets poured. The system I ran into was the worst were they could only pour with money in the till. Some of these systems will actually allow you to pour without cash in the system, but it sends a signal to update a database with pour volume, and other tracking data. The manager then can compare the bar receipts with the amount of alcohol poured out. The best part is that employees can also be have an RFID tag on them so manger can see who poured well and who did not. Since the system tracks amount of alcohol served it can also help managers with inventory, or billing of special parties and banquettes.

So are the days of free drinks gone? Who knows, but somebody has to pay for all these improvements.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Google Analytics

I have been using Google Analytics to monitor web traffic to my blog and website. Google Analytics anomalously tracks the number of visitors to your site along with where they are from and how many pages are viewed. It tracks what words on your site draws interest to the world outside, what browsers users use to access your site along with how they entered your site (from Google, direct or other means.

As you can see from the image above, the main page gives a very quick overview of your sites visitors. My favorite is the world map. As one would expect most of the traffic is from the greater Milwaukee area, since that is where I am from. But what is neat is to see that I have had visitors from South America, Australia, and Europe.

There are other tools, that are for web developers or marketers, but I haven't really used those tools. I am more interested in watching the growth of visits.

Google Analytics is a free offering from Google, and all it takes a a little JavaScript added to your main web page.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Patterns and Practice Software Factories

The consulting company I work for only does projects and we do all the work in our office. sometimes, people need to work on multiple projects at one time. A problem that arises is that from one project to the next, the solution infrastructure varies, sometime a lot and there is a cost to get the developer comfortable with the project. The cost is mainly in productivity hours. We have been talking about coming up with standard ways to do projects and from a very top level we have a good process, things like unit testing, coding standards, peer reviews, continuous builds, and what not. What we don't have is a good solution template or anything to enforce certain patterns we like to use as a project grows.

So in my spare time I have been trying to find a solution to this problem, at least from the DotNet side of our practice. I came across a four software factories offered at Patterns & Practice website. The software factories are Smart Client, Web Service, Mobile, and Web Client. These factories use the composite patten for UI loading. It also forces a MVC Pattern or what they call a MVP pattern for creating and developing forms and web pages. The factories are also very extensible and supports many different frameworks like for example NUnit, and the VSTS tests. You can use all the other application blocks with the solutions.

I will be posting more about the factories as I start using them more in my spare time. I do know that in the few little test apps I did the wiring of UI and passing of events between forms, controls and other objects is simple.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Can It Get Any Colder?

So let me start and say that it is cold outside. As I write this post it is -8 F and -26 F with wind chill. Even though I live in Wisconsin and we do get cold weather, this is beyond cold. Let me try and give you a feel for this.

First, if outside for a few minutes, coats freeze. By freeze I mean coats get stiff and while trying to move around there is fear you might crack your coat. If you have ever seen the experiment when you dip something in liquid nitrogen and the item freezes solid, and it makes it so brittle that the smallest shock would cause it to shatter. That is what I am talking about.

Second, car batteries become weaker. On Saturday I could not get my car to start. I got a neat gadget for Christmas that has a jumper cable system. So I tried to use it but it did not provide enough juice. I had to actually have someone come over and jump my car for real.

Finally, my furnace runs non stop. this is the one that bothers me most. I try to keep my gas and electric bill small, but this weather keeps my furnace running. I try to keep my house heated at 63 F, not to high, but my furnace runs non stop. all I think about is how much money I am wasting.

The solution would be for me to move somewhere warmer, but then I would just complain about how hot the sumer would be.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Liam Dawson

Yesterday around 11:00 am my second nephew Liam Dawson was born. He was 8lbs 2 ounces. Twenty-one inches long.

I went to see him yesterday and he has curly blond hair. Bright blue eyes. I will add some pictures once I get some.