Now a Professional Pythonista at Points!

I have been working for the past month as a Software Development Engineer at Points International.  While my role is not officially as a Python developer, a large portion of my work is building Python applications, services and libraries.  Also I get to develop in Java as well and maintain some very well engineered systems as well, so I get to deal with both worlds.  Even after a month, I am super excited to work at such a cool company and with awesome people.  It really feels like a bit of a dream job, in terms of what technology I get to use (Python, Linux desktops and distributed version control systems, w00t!) and the processes (yes Agile and proper software engineering totally works when done right).

But it is the people within the company that really makes it shine.  I get to be surrounded by smart, savvy, and welcoming coworkers, including a number of important and active Pythonistas that I look up to.  My team is just amazing, supportive, and I feel that in this short time span I’ve become a much better developer thanks to them.  Even on stressful days I feel motivated and excited to come to work and give it my all.  I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to be at Points. 🙂

When Penguins Can Fly… (An Exercise in Portfolio Building)

No, this is not an exercise in a delayed reaction for April Fool’s Day.  I am not that slow!  Rather I spent most of the weekend in a concerted effort to setup a portfolio and renewing my personal website.  I realize now the reason why I procrastinated to do so for years.  Setting everything up in a systematic manner is difficult and painful.  Digging through folders to find great examples of your work even more difficult.  However the effort was worth the pain.

The blog now has a unique title: “When Penguins Can Fly…”.  I think the title is appropriate considering how much of a Linux fan and of penguins I am.  At little bit of magic in Gimp and I replaced the background for the theme.  Anyone interested in using the theme for themselves, can find it here: Hacker Dreams WordPress theme version 0.1

After that and a bit of fun with the favicon, I started work on setting up the various pages and galleries in my portfolio.  It took a while to try out the various galleries, and I settled on the NEXGen Gallery plugin.  After some futzing around, I managed to setup quite a few nice galleries for the Draw section of my portfolio.  In the future I will need to either find even better art or create more artwork.  However this will have to do for now.  In addition I found an animation I did for a visual computing class that I uploaded to Youtube.

The most difficult aspect is the coding part of the portfolio.  I originally wanted to build a bunch of original apps with new source code.  Unfortunately that will take time that I do not have at the moment.  I will add those when I have a chance.  However for the moment downloads, brush ups of old work, screenshots and screencasts will have to do.

In a rare case, I am opening up the comments to take suggestions.  Please let me know what you think.

Time to Retire My Snowboard for the Season

As part of a struggle to retrieve a lawn chair and folding table, to get some work done will enjoying the outdoors, I stumbled over my snowboard.  This winter–yes I know that officially spring begins in a few days–I managed to hit the slopes for two solid days of snowboarding.  Not enough to gain mastery over my mischievous, knee jarring board but enough to  enjoy a few thrilling rides down the slope.  Like all good things, there is a time to put away some things to start some new aspect of life.  So I put away the snowboard, and after some careful Tetris-work I managed to pull out the folding table.  Plus I found an old pair of sandals, which I am proudly wearing right now… in an attempt to declare this day as shorts and sandals weather.  In a way, I am glad that I can retire my snowboard for this season.

I am also happy that I can retire my resume for now.  Having found a nice new job, means I don’t have to deal with the joys of applying for new positions and dealing with interviews.  I can now concentrate on developing my skills again.  Possibly learning a new language or framework or two.  Most importantly, I can finally catch up on the huge mound of work and projects that I felt undone as I searched for a new job.  I am glad I can  concentrate on this, and not job hunting.  (Note for my friends: this catch-up effort is also the reason I’ve been rather silent recently.  Even by sleeping less, I still feel a tad overwhelmed by the work I have to do soon.)

Finally I am glad that I can retire some of my old bad habits.  This Lent I took the opportunity to retire my gaming habits and my will-do-later-cause-my-me-time-is-more-important.  Not all my bad habits and less than graceful behaviours have gone, however I am glad that this Lent gave me the opportunity to start a new chapter in my spiritual side.  I am glad that I feel closer to God, my Creator, and also my fellow humans.  I wish I could explain the joy I get when I truly try to be thankful for what I have.  And I wish I could explain how letting God into your life, will only increase the joy, wonderment and experiences in ones life.  It makes me sad that I’ve seen a few of my friends turn away from those graces, and I hope that we will return back in time.

Time for me to stop writing more on this post.  There is so much to do, that I feel guilty for not getting back to work.  I hope everyone enjoys a warm sun-filled spring, a productive start to the second quarter, and a blessed Lent!  See you all soon!

The Next Big Thing

I am really excited that I am currently working on my next big project.  I won’t spill any details until everything is setup and ready.  This new project I hope not only will give me the opportunity to work on the technologies I love to work with.  But will also benefit the Linux and open source community as well.  More details will follow soon.

As part of this project, I will be doing some major changes to this site.  One of the major things will be the expansion of my portfolio.  It has been something I wanted to do for a long time.   Now I finally have the opportunity to do so. 🙂

From Inside a Particle Accelerator…

Sometime last year, it feels like the pace of my life accelerated to a phenomenal rate.  I would venture that just before I started working in California was when it happened.  Since then much like a particle accelerated in a linear accelerator, it feels like I am moving forward at a frantic pace.  Maybe it is just me, but it feels like that.  The start of this year does not seem to slow down much either.

Not that I am not thankful for everything that has happened.  Living in the SF Bay area.  Experiencing San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Working on some pretty nifty Android technology, all the while learning more and more.  Seeing one of my best friends get married to the love of his life.  Visiting Poland, Germany, Italy and Austria.  Learning how to windsail.  Getting more involved in writing and editing.  Becoming a lot more self-reliant and independent.  Becoming closer to the people I care about.  These and so much more I am truly grateful for.

There have been painful times and experience along the way as well.  The loneliness of not knowing anyone close in California.  Having to change jobs three times in a single year.  The stress and anxiety that came with those and so many other moments.  But that is all just part of the growing process I guess.  Still the whole life hurtling forward of its own accord, feels unsettling.  Maybe I am just getting old.  Maybe all the bad decisions of procrastinating have come back to bite me.  But it would be nice for life to slow down.

So what is next for me?

Well I am looking for my next gig.  I’d like to get further along on my writing and coding projects.  Hopefully catch up on everything and get some of that “slow down” and “stabilize” going on…

Grey Morning in a New Reality

Outside the window, grey clouds fill the sky and raindrops stream through the air.  A warm morning for an early December day, the weather being more likely for mid-November.  The rain does not bother me as I am sitting in a GO train headed to downtown Toronto, and getting ready for the start of a new day.

Since I started working at Indusblue as an Android developer, my mornings involve a morning train commute to Toronto.  While taking the train and streetcar to work extends my commuting time, I can not complain.  I get about two hours each day of time for myself, to get work done.  Amongst other things, I use this time to write or catch up on past work.  Today I decided that instead of sleeping on may to work, I would update this blog.

After a summer of travelling to and from San Francisco and spending a good portion of my Fall travelling in central Europe: Poland, Germany, Austria and Italy; I finally am settling down at the end of the year.  While I love travelling and visiting new places, I am glad that I have returned to Toronto.  I am glad to be close to most of my friends, family and familiar settings.

Since my return, I have concentrated on catching up on overdue work.  So many tasks and delayed projects have piled up, that I feel the need to make progress on them or even finish them before the end of the year.  Amongst other things I started writing two pieces: a science fiction novel and an auto-biography of sorts.  Also I started working on justcheckers again, which I plan to complete as part of my portfolio work.  And I am working on a few other missing or lacking parts of life, that I can not comment on right now.  However I am overjoyed with the progress I have made, and the opportunities that linger on the horizon.

So while the mornings are grey and rainy and sometimes quite cold, I am grateful for the new reality of life I am in now.  It might rain outside, but I feel as if it were sunny.

California Dreamin’ – Part 2

So I am back in California again at the request of my client.  Fortunately for not as long as last time.  While Northern California is a great place to live in, it is not quite the palm lined, sunny, warm dream that Hollywood and LA make it out to be.  Summer in the San Francisco Bay Area is much like Toronto’s late spring.  But not comes close to the humid summers of the East Coast.  Plus living in a hotel in a suburb away from everything including friends and family is not fun.

The one good thing is that I have time to reflect, and to catch up.  One such thing being blogging and writing for me.  I do miss writing and hopefully once I clear off my immediate urgent work, I can do more writing.  With any luck there will be more updates to this blog.  And even better… more chances of writing long-form prose.  However I have to first write back to all those e-mails sitting in my inbox, screaming for attention.

Work occupies most of my waking hours.  I wish I could talk about my work in greater detail, however my client wishes to keep a lid on the project I am involved in.  I do not blame them, as the final product will be a great surprise to their customers.  And a wake-up call to their competitors.  I can not say more than this: working on an embedded Linux tablet project is fun.  As a developer I love a good challenge and this project presents many such challenges.  And I am inspired to continue down this career path.

Life continues to swirl randomly and unpredictably around me.  Lots of good signs keep me motivated to try harder.  Still the challenges continue on mounting and sometimes the sheer volume is overwhelming.  However I am still hopeful that this is the mere “storming and forming” before life takes on a certain elegant pattern and routine.  I wish I could say more, but I fear that I might jinx things I reveal too much, too soon…

Wow.  I hoped for a less ambiguous post.  Still it can not be helped, given all the circumstances.

California Dreaming

Good morning all!

Maybe there are better things to do than to update your blog, right before you start work.  And looking at my e-mails and my to-do lists make me feel like this will be a long day.  But considering my recent silence I thought an update on me is in order.  Plus if blogging doesn’t get my creative energies flowing… I’m not sure what will.

As I sit at the table of my hotel room, I can not but be amazed.  For a little over a month, I started a new job and showed up at my client’s office.  My client being located in the south San Francisco Bay area.  The first week I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of travelling, working on a serious project for a serious client and living on my own.  While the initial shock wore off, I am still overwhelmed both in the good and bad sense.

A month later I still love the travelling aspect.  Visiting San Francisco and Los Angeles all were worthwhile.  Flying never gets old, but I could do without the insane travel “security” at the airports.  Everyday I still can not believe that I am in California, right smack in the middle of Silicon Valley.  The fact that my client wanted to fly me in from Toronto to Silicon Valley is amazing.  A huge ego boost.  This is me making it in my career.  Sort of like an actor ending up in Hollywood or performer on Broadway.  Plus I get to work on Android development and build a tablet system from the ground up.  All of this overwhelms me in a good way.

Living on my own in a new city, without a car overwhelms me in a bad way.  Living out here, away from the inner-city makes everything so far and inconvenient.  Groceries, getting places, and all that jazz is tricky and time-consuming.  Taxies take too long, and the only real viable option is biking.  Unfortunately I bought a bike that just broke down on me the same day.  Plus since I will not be living here for longer, it doesn’t make sense to plan too long term.  Being away from friends and family also takes its toll.  Originally I assumed I would at least be able to catch up on my long overdue work.  That is partially true, but I still struggle with that.

Still as with anything in life, there are pros and cons.  Overall I’ve learned a lot, and have a greater appreciation of life’s small things.  I do miss Toronto, but I love also living here.  Flying solo does have its advantages.  And I’ve never been able to take the initiative and be more spontaneous like I can now.  I have learned to be truly independent in work and in life.  And I have started to make friends here too.  Now if only the weather here started being more like stereotypical Californian, as in warm and sunny.  Even the Sun has been shy recently.  But other than that–and if the overwhelming amount of catch-up work would just go away–I am happily dreaming big dreams and living it up down here in California.

Innovation in Increments

I have the good fortune of working in a Research & Development group. That means I get to learn about new ideas, experiment with them and apply them appropriately. Unfortunately I can not discuss my current project, other than it involves automating the creation of mobile applications. While I can not say that I am building something that is so deeply innovative that it has no precedence. But then again what most people do not realize that innovation happens mostly in small increments. You take an interesting idea, see if it makes your life easier and better. If not you review your work and options, and you try again. If it works, you get innovation!

So while I can not comment on my own work… 🙁 I can point some interesting work happening in the libre software community.

Canonical’s New Take on Scrollbars

Many of today’s computing innovations like tablets deal not with radical new technologies.  But rather making technology more usable for non-developers and non-engineers.  It might not sound like much, but Canonical is working on improving the usability of scrollbars in their Gnome desktop:

Take a look at the video in Mark Shuttleworth’s post.  I definitely think that abstracting the line indicator and the actual control is a great idea.  It also makes it more touch friendly and intuitive.

MeeGo and Qt Lives for KDE and the N900

While not so much an innovation per se, I am happy to hear that the development of Qt and MeeGo will continue.  The KDE crew came out and pointed out that Qt back when KDE started was a great framework and is even better now.  Back when I started using KDE, I was amazed at how well everything integrated together in look and feel terms.  This was all possible with KDE settling on one good UI framework, Qt.  Now that it is more cross-platform and rounded out, it still is a great compelling framework to learn and use.  There are some governance issues that need to get worked out, but it is nothing that won’t be resolved nicely soon.  I indeed intend on learning Qt, as soon as my own schedule clears up.

[Another analysis on the Nokia/Qt/MeeGo/KDE question.  Man isn’t life in the libre software world messy at times.]

As for MeeGo, sounds like Nokia will be supporting the N900 as an official development device for MeeGo.  So maybe Mr. Elop changed direction, but at least there is a way forward for MeeGo handset developers.  Hopefully that’ll mean that we can get started hacking on MeeGo.  And once more devices come out, all developer efforts can get carried over.  Maybe, just maybe we’ll finally have a good libre software platform for new disruptive devices, that won’t be threatened by the domination of one massive vendor.  I’m looking at you Google, Microsoft and Apple.

In the Beginning of November…

A new month begins and a new twist to life. This is the first day at a new office in downtown Toronto. Not that I’ve changed positions, I’m still working as a mobile developer for Web Impact. For my coworkers, this is nothing new since they all worked at the Toronto office before moving out to Mississauga. Unfortunately the Mississauga location did not provide what we needed and so we are moving back for now.

This morning everything is a little different. Figuring out new schedules, new routes and a new location. Should be fun. Other than that I’ll still get to enjoy working on mobile coding, with all its unique challenges.

One challenge I worked on this past while is writing. Not a lot of progress on the novel. But I did manage to submit two short stories for publishing. One to the Fall issue of the Alexandrian, which should come out soon. And one to 365 Tomorrows, which will hopefully get accepted too.

Other than that I still have load of catching up on work. I still feel a bit behind. Anyways, this next stop is mine. Catch you later.