May 1st, 2015:
I miss blogs, dammit.

I had an old blog and was pretty good at updating it. It used my personal framework instead of a mainstream, feature-packed system like WordPress. It was modular and linked to friends’ blogs. They were all pretty good at updating their blogs too.

What happened?

One explanation is simple: we don’t have time any more. We’re old. We have families to spend time with. There are more complicated hobbies to maintain. We write (good) code all day long and don’t need that special fix that we used to crave.

Another explanation? WordPress is less fun. It’s not my personal code sandbox. I don’t take pride in the feature set… I just download another plug-in and enable it. I don’t have friends providing feedback on what’s working vs. what could be better… and when they do, I don’t take it personally.

Does this post mean I’ll try harder to make blog posts? Maybe… but with the summer (and race season) starting soon, I make no promises…

- Duane

February 6th, 2014:
The Adventure Continues

I started my new job 3 months ago and it’s been everything I wanted (and needed). We’ve been building a new application from the ground up with no integrated legacy dependencies with the latest Javascript frameworks. Node.js and Angular.js are absolutely wonderful to work with… which only makes me regret taking so much time off of dedicated coding even more. I feel like I’m about 2 years behind where I should have been if I stayed more hands-on with code, even if it was just at home. Pro tip from Uncle D: if you love to code, don’t stop… even if it’s not your job any more.

Glorious PC Gaming Master Race

Glorious PC Gaming Master Race

Frankly, I’ve found myself with more free time that I’ve had for about 5 years. Working from home allows me to take care of a few chores a couple of days per week during lunch. Even when I work until 7:00 or 8:00 at night, I just walk out of my office and I’m home! With the extra free time and no home improvement projects underway, I’ve needed to keep myself busy. After finally cleaning out that extra room that was used for storage during the last 2 years, I really wanted to get started on my race car prep… but with single (or negative) digit temps, working in an non-insulated, non-heated metal pole barn isn’t exactly smart. So, I’ve found that playing online PC games with my friends is a great way to stay in touch. We don’t see each other as much since I started working from home. Brad has hosted his famous Atomic JanLAN which got a few of the Peasants to experience the glory of gaming above 30 frames per second at resolutions above 720p.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed playing Battlefield 4 late into the night, despite the unforgivable amount of bugs still present in the game 4 months after launch. To keep my hands busy when not on a keyboard, I’ve made some significant upgrades to my PC, including a new case, additional graphics card for SLI, water cooling, and new keyboard and mouse (thanks to Gina for the Christmas presents).

Outside of the house, a few friends and I have been visiting the Howell Gun Club during public range times to deal with our cabin fever by putting holes in targets. We’ve all done well despite our lack of practice. I really haven’t fired a pistol in 20 years, but a new S&W M&P .40 sure makes it easy to get back in the groove. We’re considering membership since the folks at the club are so welcoming and helpful. They’re full of great advice and always have a smile to welcome you.

Once we’re thawed out, I fully expect the repairs due to the record winter to consume my time. On top of that, I still haven’t pulled the engine from my race car and replaced the transmission. For now, I’ll keep cleaning the house and gaming at night… hoping for some sunshine and double digit temperatures to free us from our frozen prison!

- Duane

November 4th, 2013:
A New Adventure

Gina near the Utah mountain  peak just beyond Park City. Approx. altitude: 10,000 ft.

Gina near the Utah mountain peak just beyond Park City. Approx. altitude: 10,000 ft.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to seek out a new career opportunity. Having spent 15 years with my former organization, I’ve made many friends and learned so much. I am eternally grateful for my time with them. I had a personal need to work more directly with a smaller team on a "start from scratch" project. My new opportunity provides this.

I am almost done with my 2-week onsite orientation/training/meet-the-team in Utah. It’s very pretty out here… but Gina and I just aren’t into mountains. (My new company flew Gina out for the weekend.) After this onsite visit is complete, I’ll be working from home most of the time, with regular remote work-together days (there are several other software folks relatively close to each other) and occasional visits back to HQ in Utah.

I’m looking forward to working more directly with code, being able to contribute to the design effort and build a new team from the ground up. The side benefit of having more time to spend with my family is pretty nice as well. (I averaged 16 hours per week commuting to downtown Detroit previously.) I’m a little rusty, but I’ve already written a bit of handy jQuery for custom field masking, cleaned up some unwieldy CSS, and generated lots of clean, standards-compliant HTML. Not bad for a few days on the job!

I know I’m being very vague regarding my past and current job history. If you know me (or know how to use social networks), I’m sure you can figure it all out. But really, is it worth your time?

- Duane

October 10th, 2013:

I have really slacked on updates this year… a lot has happened and I just haven’t had time to catalog it all here. So, here’s the Cliff’s notes version:

  • I was promoted to Vice President, Software Engineering at the beginning of the year.
  • Since then, I’ve really had no time to focus on code, technology, my hobbies or home projects
  • I have, however, learned a great deal about high level leadership and the complexities of an enterprise organization
  • Our engineers have been cranking out awesome stuff all year long and I’m grateful to be part of their team. We launched the first phase of a revolutionary product a few weeks ago and are already ready to release the next version. I hope this release gets the team the props they deserve from our business leaders.
  • This year’s racing season was expensive and full of technical difficulties and repairs. During the first practice weekend, I hit a wall going about 80 and wiped out all of the suspension on the left side of my car as well as destroying the fiberglass nose. After that I battled with my brake bias, had a few bumps and scrapes with other cars, disintegrated my clutch, pulled the engine and trans, and tried to make my tires last a few weekend longer than I should have. The last straw was blowing up 3rd gear during the last scheduled race of the season. The car is still sitting in the barn waiting for me to pull the engine again. I hope to do that before the winter comes…
  • Gina and I went to Germany for a week… it was pretty damn awesome. Gina allowed me to tag along while she attended a conference. She was honored with a nomination for her work in appetite regulation mechanics. We spent a few extra days in Munich and Stuttgart to visit museums, castles, and more than a few Biergarten.
  • The week after we got back from Germany, we spent a week in Traverse City with our bandmates. Generally, we visited a lot of wineries, drank some wine, played a lot of music and chilled out. There’s no better way to get over jetlag than to chill in a cabin with your friends.

I’ll have some big news soon, so stay tuned. I promise I’ll post the details on this site!

- Duane

December 6th, 2012:
Gaming Season!

Video game season began a few months ago. A group of us at the office decided to invest in PC upgrades and many have been spending more time on PC gaming than console. Apart from the occasional PC pains (crashes, installation complications, weird voice chat compromises, etc.) the PC gaming experience does not fail to impress. Although current gen consoles have come a long way in their capabilities, there is still a significant difference in feature and quality.

Take Battlefield 3 (one of my current favorites)… the PC multiplayer maps are massive in comparison to their console counterparts. The number of players are far larger on each map. The graphics are undeniably better. The physics are more accurate. There’s more details. The quality of player is superior. Argue if you want, but the experience it better.

I’ve been playing the campaign in Dishonored. At first, I was disappointed with the difference in the graphics vs. the teasers in the commercials. However with the help of a few tweaks, I’ve become more than satisfied with the aesthetic of the game. These kinds of tweaks (here and here) are not possible on consoles.

Furthermore, LAN Parties just aren’t the same with a console. Most console multiplayer games require an internet connection and an official internet game server. Most multiplayer PC games allow you to configure your own game server or even host from your own instance of the game. I’ll exclude the controller vs. keyboard and mouse argument. That’s a discussion of its own.

So, am I done with console gaming? Absolutely not. Console gaming is easier. There are fewer bugs, crashes and complications. The Xbox live experience is the best centralized social gaming solution on the planet. I know who is playing what games with whom and can text or voice chat with them even if I’m not playing the same game.

So, what’s the point of my rant? Hmm…

I’m having fun playing PC games. I even enjoy some of the challenges of tweaking each game to their optimal settings. But, I miss the simplicity and reliability of console gaming.

What’s the fix?

That’s a loaded question: Microsoft has all of the ingredients to fix this. Windows 8 plays all nicey-nice with the Xbox 360. They have tablet and smartphone tools (smartglass). The gaming community needs to unite around a common communications platform. Steam is on the right track with their integrations, but most folks don’t want to manually add non-Steam games to their Steam libraries. To complicate things, EA (and other competitors) have started Steam-like services (but they lack the non-sales tools such as central chat, and social integration). Raptr is a great stop-gap solution: it allows you to connect all of your game networks (Xbox live, PSN, Steam, Xfire, etc.) into a single interface as well as keep track of your achievements and trophies. Think of it as Facebook for gamers.

All of that still wouldn’t be enough. There will always be the technical challenges of deploying demanding software onto diverse systems. Gamers love building custom rigs. There is a very active competition between friends to see who can build the best machine. That guarantees diversity in hardware. Which, in turn, guarantees instability.

So, now what? Live in both worlds? Buy 2 copies of each game? Well, some forward thinking publishers (including Steam) have allowed a purchase to work on multiple platforms. This is specifically why I purchased Portal 2 for the PS 3 (my 2nd least used platform). It included activation and cross-platform compatibility with Portal 2 for PC via Steam. Sadly, this is an exceptionally rare occurrence.

I’ve switched between console and PC games every few years. This is the first time that I’ve felt a need to keep a foot in both buckets. I haven’t decided which way to go, but I have a hunch that the next generation of top tier consoles will help me decide.

- Duane