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Showing posts from February, 2018

Book Review: Soft Skills, The Software Developer's Life Manual

So I finished my first book of the year called Soft Skills, The Software Developer's Life Manual!  I talked about this book in an earlier blog entry and the rest of the book did not disappoint!

I would highly recommend Soft Skills as it gives great insight on how the author, John Sonmez, lived his life and how he became successful.  But he also points out that everyone's path might be a little different on how or when they become successful.

Since reading John's book I've started my own blog, I've gotten several recommendations on other books to read, I've started using Kanban flow and the pomodoro technique (staying more focused on tasks at work), I've learned some insight on real estate, and also a few things about nutrition!  Yes, John covers all the aspects of life and it's a great read!

The book has also convinced me that I've got a great skill because software development is not easy!  I'm starting to learn other code faster, as the book g…

SQL Server Tally Tables

So I've come across some articles discussing Tally Tables in SQL Server, these are scripts that replace loops in your sql code to make it run faster.  Here's one of the articles I read and I'm trying to decide if this is something I should try to implement here at work.

I do have several stored procedures that use Cursors and While loops but does it go through enough data to justify using it?  If anyone has any thoughts or input on Tally tables please let me know. I do plan on investigating these more but wanted to get others opinions.

The "you guys must have changed something" Comment

As a developer you hear and witness several different things from users.  One thing I've learned over the past 20 years is you must have patience, especially with certain users.

It's amazing how many users are convinced that if something looks different or something "seems" to be missing on their screen that they assume something has changed in the code.  One of the comments I get a lot is, "you guys must have changed something in the code."

Well, when you're the only developer at a company you know when something has changed or not changed.  I try to explain to these users that "no, nothing has been changed in that program, we haven't made any changes to that in almost 6 months".  Then I get responses like, "well I over heard you guys talking about a username being misspelled, and maybe that's what's causing this."  My response, "No, that had nothing to do with the program you're in and that was on our test syst…

Dabbling With AWS

I came across an article yesterday by Nat Thompson called Pioneering Your Way to Cloud Computing With AWS Developer Tools - one of the stats I found shocking was 79% percent of organizations now have systems running in either public or private cloud infrastructure and 95% are going to pursue cloud adoption.  
So, I thought it might be good to learn a little more about cloud infrastructures, and dabble with AWS (Amazon Web Services).  This article takes you through the process of how to sign up for an AWS Account (free for 1 year), how to setup an IAM user, and setting up your CodeBuild.  
I spent most of last night setting up everything and now it's time to test and learn what I can do with the AWS tools!  Wish me luck! :)

Easy Way To Save Excel Data in your Program

Lets face it, everyone still uses Excel for one reason or the other.  I think it's a great tool, especially for organizing and tracking information, creating quick budgets, lists, etc. 

Sometimes at work I get a request for the ability to store Excel data into our database.  For example, we have a QR Scanner that imports data into Excel.  We also have a Scan History table where we store all scans.  Note, we are able to scan traditional bar codes directly into the database, just not the QR Scans.

So, the user wants to copy the scan data into our history database but also assign some other information to it, like a PO Number.  So one of programs I've created is actually pretty simple.

You create a "textarea" input and give it whatever dimensions that seem reasonable.  I also added a Po Number text field for this example. The trick is to separate the data by tabs (but make sure the data itself has no tabs within the cells).  Below is an example of how I separated 3 colu…

It's Almost March Madness

So being a sports fanatic, March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year when it comes to sports!  This past winter Olympics has been fun to watch as well!

Anyhow, as a developer I love to create new applications for things such as March Madness.  Several years ago I created a an application on our work intranet for users to make picks on their brackets.  The system also totals up points for making the correct selections (I just have to enter who won the games). 

Again, I probably developed this over 10 years ago.  So, over the weekend I decided to write a new and improved version of the March Madness bracket buster!  And I'm much more happy with this version as it's more user friendly, more appealing to the eye, and the code is much more efficient!

Cool thing about this application is every time you select a team, the pick is saved automatically.  If you would like a copy of this application to use at your work just let me know!



Love the XMLHttpRequest Object

I was reading up on some XML and AJAX stuff the other day and came across the XMLHttpRequest Object - when I come across snippets of code like the example in the link, I always try to figure a way to incorporate it into my work.  I always ask myself is this something I can use and make my software more efficient?

This was something I most definitely could use as we have a system of part numbers in our database.  We have users that select part numbers to enter Selling Opportunities so I was able to use the code to look up the part numbers more quickly, showing the part numbers, qty on hand, and some other pertinent info.
Below is an example of some code:
Page1.asp
<html> <head> <script> function showHint(str) {     if (str.length == 0) {         document.getElementById("txtHint").innerHTML = "";         return;     } else {         var xmlhttp = new XMLHttpRequest();         xmlhttp.onreadystatechange = function() {             if (this.readyState =…

BenBleser.com Has A New Look

I've been working on updating my personal website BenBleser.com and it's just about complete!  I haven't really updated this site for awhile.  I've had the domain since around 1999 and my friends and I used it as a message board (sort of like Facebook).

But I thought it was about time to put some of my accomplishments, biography, activities and such on here to help self promote myself for any potential future opportunities.  The website is entirely dynamic, so if I would want to post something I just login to the admin section for the site.  I also have some sections that are password protected.  So if there's certain info you want to know about me, I want to know who you are! ;)

Staying Fit As a Software Developer

One of the things I love about John Sonmez's book Soft Skills is that he has an entire section dedicated to Fitness!

Fortunately, I've always been someone who has been active.  I played sports in high school, intramural sports in college, and still stay active playing golf, basketball, softball, skiing and more.  I also workout almost every weekday.  How does this help me?

Well, for starters it helps me stay in shape.  As a software developer you're sitting at a desk a lot!  You can't burn many calories sitting at your desk!  My usual weekly routine is to workout every weekday for about 45-60 minutes.  I'll mix in free weights and some circuit training.  I might run a few miles here and there, but usually when I run it's on the weekends.  I try and play basketball every Wednesday night, and this is the best workout ever!  (just try and not get injured!)  You can lose a lot of calories playing basketball! (if you don't like basketball try racquetball)

Second…

Would I Be A Good Programming Teacher?

One of the things I've always asked myself is, "would I be good at teaching/coaching programming"?  I guess after 20 years of programming you'd like to think you could teach but do you have to know everything?  How will I come across to the person(s) I'm teaching?  Would I enjoy it?

I'm starting to realize that you don't have to know everything about what your teaching or coaching.  This has been evident from my own experience and from the books/articles I've read (including the one below).  You just have to ask questions!

Recently, I've been coaching/teaching our network guy at my work learn how to code.  And it's amazing how much knowledge comes out when you start to explain things not to yourself, but to another individual.  Plus I've been reading some books that show that teaching what you learn helps you retain that information even better. I've been learning some new languages and while learning these I'm thinking to myself h…

When Your Co-worker is Dying

This blog post is dedicated to a fellow work and friend of mine of some 14 years.

Ryan Andersen was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer about 4 years ago.  The doctors told him he had about 8 months to live.  Ryan was a very unique individual, he spoke his mind and was a very good programmer.  I can attribute a lot of what I've learned in programming (especially in web programming) from Ryan.  We worked together close to 14 years and we became a very strong team.  Every once in awhile I come across some of his comments in our code and I just laugh.

In the workplace, it was a very tough situation knowing Ryan was going to pass away soon, but also try and get as much information from him on the projects he was working on.  We actually were in the middle of a software project that we marketed and sold.  I had the task of taking over, but imagine while you're working with your fellow co-worker, who doesn't think they're going to die.  It was tough.  Not as tough as what Rya…

Apple HomePod

So Apple is releasing their answer to Amazon's Alexa with the HomePod tomorrow.  But personally, I don't see much use with these devices.  Here's why, everyone has a smartphone!  Everything you need to find, answer, call, etc is right at your fingertips with your smartphone.

We have one at home, and it's still sitting in the box.  And I know several other people who have tried using it but have given up on it. 

I know everyone wants the latest and greatest, and I'm sure Apple will sell several of these over the past couple of months.  But after that, I'm sure they'll move on to another product.

Do you know use Alexa?  Do you plan on purchasing the HomePod?

The IT Helpdesk

One of the custom programs we created when I first started working with my current employer was an IT Helpdesk.  This was a program we wrote (ASP classic with SQL Server backend) to help track and manage our IT tasks/work.

We managed our work into three categories: Production, Projects and List Items.  Production items were issues that needed to addressed right away ("on fire"), whether it be a system bug, a special report, etc.  Projects were larger tasks that would take a month or more to completes.  And list items where the requests that weren't really critical but could be worked on when Production and Projects were completed.

15 years ago it was more of a management tool for IT tasks, but now it has become a great resource for me when trying to figure out issues that have come up in the past.  This is especially helpful now that I'm the only developer/programmer here at my work.  When you have hundreds of pages and thousands of lines of code it's just hard t…

Switching from Classic ASP to ASP.NET

One of my goals this year (or should I say the first six months of this year) is to learn C# and .NET.  Currently at my work, our entire intranet is written in Classic ASP.  Being a smaller company we never really had to make the switch, and we could probably get by a little longer but you never know when Microsoft will pull the plug on regular ASP. 

I was also researching the advantages of .NET over Classic ASP and came across this section on Wikibooks - I thought this was a good explanation of the advantages of .NET; for example, .NET is able to use any .NET compiled compared to ASP's interpreted VBscript or Javascript. The interpreted code also slows down performance.

I've got a couple of Murach's books I'm reading on C# and ASP.NET; I've also been using some online resources to help explain any questions that pop up. (these books are really good as well)  So far, I've got a pretty good understanding of the C# code, just need to get used to the syntax.  Now …

SQL Server and Metadata

Read an interesting article this morning by Alex Fleming called Microsoft SQL Server Metadata For Developers - I was interested in this article because I'm been using SQL Server for over 18 years now but didn't really know much about Metadata.

First, I didn't realize that SQL Server 2016 had recently taken the lead in RDMSs. And that SQL Server 2017 supports programming languages R and Python!

Alex talks about 3 essential SQL Server skills all developers should have.

1) Knowing SQL or T-SQL, it's very valuable scripting language in SQL Server and is something I know quite well.

2) Powershell - another powerful scripting language allowing users to automate tasks, which usually involve SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services).  I have this on my list of To Learns!

3) Use of Metadata - basically how a developer applies knowledge of metadata in T-SQL, Alex talks about how metadata is overlooked but should be an important part of a developer's skill.  My understanding of Me…

Superbowl Weekend

Since I'm a huge sports fan I'm going to mostly talk about the big game this Sunday!  But first my rant about the Cincinnati Bengals!  I'm from the Cincinnati area and have grown up a Bengals fan.  When Marvin Lewis took over it was a good move and he did do a good job turning a losing program into a winning program.  But it's been 15 years now, no playoff wins (0-7) and the team has been getting worse the past 2 seasons (along with some really devastating losses).  So the Bengals extend his contract another 2 years?  I used to buy season tix for half the season but until the Bengals make some changes, starting with Marvin Lewis, I'm no longer buying tickets.

Anyhow, I want the Eagles to win on Sunday but I think the Patriots will win.  I actually thought the Eagles were done with when Wentz got hurt but Foles has done a great job as the QB.  But the Patriots know how to win, and it doesn't matter who's on the roster as long as they have Brady and Belichick…

2018 Goals Update

Wow, the month of January 2018 has flown by!  I cannot believe it's Feb 1 already!  But I will say I've been pretty happy with the progress of keeping my goals for the 2018 year!

Here's what I've kept to thus far:

1. Recite the Optimist Creed every morning (well at least during work days)

2. No more Mountain Dew in the morning

3. I've learned PHP and in the progress of learning C# and ASP.net (progress is good!)

4.  I'm almost finished reading Soft Skills by John Sonmez (trying to read 1 book per Quarter)

5. Family vacation to Disney has been booked!

6. Blog has been started!