Mar 092015

I have been around IT for quite a while now, I owned my first Internet connected PC in 1994 or so, although I did own a Commodore 128 that connected to BBSes before that. I remember connecting to those at 300 baud and trying to locate a 1200 baud modem. I even had a 3.5″ disc drive for the commodore, which was VERY rare at the time. Ever since the first time I heard that connection to the outside world, that horrid sound of the analog to digital connection, I knew it was something I should be getting in to. I remember hearing about Microsoft certifications and A+ certifications and Oracle and Cisco certifications and being jealous of those people that could afford to go take the test and get certified, even those that could afford to get the specific training that all but guaranteed they would be certified, even though they had no real clue what they were doing, sure they had learned some things but most of it had just been wasted on them. Now, I do realize that at the time that paid off for many many people, but many of those certification programs were year long or so hard to get that it just was not for everyone, even those that were in the field. It seemed to give you a good amount of income and also made it very hard for new IT people to break in to the field.

That all changed a few years later, all of the sudden the IT field figured out these certs were not worth the paper they were printed on, and all of the people that legitimately earned them and had a leg up had nothing anymore. It seemed like IT had become a place for those that “knew” stuff, which is finally when I got my chance at working in the field. I made it into the field through a backdoor that meant I had to show people how important it was to be a part of it. I started to program for a decent size scale company Mettler Toledo. My boss showed an interest in someone starting to pick up an ancient language they had, and all that was in the shop at the time were older people that had no interest in learning something new, so I started to learn how to program it, which was a breeze to learn. I started to repair and modify code for a few of the older systems that were floating around and also to write a few new ones as well, this meant my shop could do something in house other shops had to get filled by other way busier shops, which could take a month or so. This gave me the ability to start asking for some new stuff to play with, I knew Basic from high school and could write that pretty good and had heard about a newish language which gave me the ability to write for Windows.

I wrote a few apps for my shop which they sold to some clients, allowing them to print tickets and interface their computers to the scales, locally. I was getting really good at it. I even started to write for a new scale product which had Basic built in, and realized I had finally found what I wanted to do. I was making $15 per hour at the time, which was ok money for a scale tech, but nothing like the $40+ per hour for an IT person. A few of the guys from my shop applied to Verizon and got in and they were going to be making $50 an hour, so I did the same. When my boss found out he tried to keep me with the company by finding a place for me in systems and it was a pretty good deal, $45k but I had to move my new wife and son to New Hampshire….crap, my wife wanted to stay close to her family, which we did, so I went to Verizon as a Tech for DSL. It didn’t take me long to start to make an impact on things there as well, creating fancy Excel spreadsheets for people and making some very influential friends.

I moved up within 6 months to Management because of one of those friends. I started to immediately make an impact on the team by creating a intranet server for them on a PC under my desk and started to learn ASP and MySQL. I created this all on my own and made it very helpful to people in my group and started to get other groups to use it as well. I never like to toot my own horn, which has always been one of my weaknesses, but it works out better to have other people toot your horn for you, which I always have had happen. This was no exception, the people using the system told their bosses and my team told our boss and I became a very important person in the building as well as some other locations, all over the US. This server even helped me to get a beefier server given to me, which gave me the ability to start learning PHP as well as Javascript and HTML. I was riding the IT wave pretty well and was able to keep my job for a long time through a lot of 30% staff cuts every 3 months, maybe I was getting to secure where I was. I had even attended college on Verizon’s dime and received my AA. I was also able to help people with their PCs, doing admin tasks on them since IT would take days and days to help them. This admin ability was my downfall at Verizon, which on that day was the WORST day of my life, but not everything is bad when you get told to pack up your stuff. I had made some more influential friends and within a week had an interview with a web development company that my boss’ boss’ husband worked at.

Enter my current company that I work for, Aurora Healthcare, they write ASP.Net code that interfaces with a MSSQL database that houses some 8-9 TB of data. This was my first job as a fulltime developer and it has been a god send, I love developing. I have been developing their product with them now for 6 years and have learned quite a bit since my Verizon days, I am now officially in the IT field and still spend a lot of time learning what the IT world looks for. I now know at least 6 development languages, and have learned how to use google to get better and figure out those things my company needs to have, like a self learning database manipulator that can copy databases and tables and make a lot of difficult tasks possible for people on my team. I have to say I am glad I did not jump on the certification bandwagon, I may never have been able to stay in IT or I may have hated it, who knows, but what I do know is learning many different things in IT is WAY better than getting pigeon holed into a specialty, which could be here today and gone tomorrow with no warning. It is so much better to keep yourself relevant than it is to become a specialist, maybe that is just to get your foot in the door, maybe once you are in being a specialist can command a lot more money than I get, but just make sure you have a backup plan, just in case something happens and that specialty dissolves like so many of them do.


Feb 182015

I have been developing for a very long time, I started writing code in Visual Basic 5 before .Net was a thing. I knew one language basically VB, I had learned Basic about 10 years before in High School and thought how great it was to start writing programs for Windows. It was awesome, I could make utilities to do a lot of different things. I had no idea that I was in a very small club of developers, those that were using VB, everyone else was writing C++ or Visual C++ and they were able to write some awesome stuff, compared to my little cheesy stuff, you could only write games and the like in one of those C variants, which I only knew existed.

Fast forward 10 years or so, I was starting to write VB.Net apps and ASP.Net stuff, and thought I was a great developer and that I was marketable. Started looking for a new job and found there was little to no call for VB still everyone wanted a variant of C although it had become C# so I realized I needed to do something that I had put off for a very long time, learning new languages. I started by trying to expand my web languages into PHP and javascript, I realized I had all but shot myself in the foot by learning VB/Basic, I was having a very hard time getting the language mechanics of both of them, but kept on trying to learn them. PHP was awesome and powerful like a C language seemed it could be and Javascript allowed me to start doing some of the more funky things in ASP.Net that the company I work for had not yet started to do. Then I started to hear about jQuery, I noticed it had a much simpler way of doing things and you really did not need to know as many of the little nuances of each browser engine and you could really start to do some really amazing things, like manipulating the DOM and doing some AJAX stuff which is amazing and really took my ASP.Net stuff to a new level. During this learning I guess the languages I was writing started to make it easier for me to learn new languages. The company I work for decided to use Dundas for dashboards, which made it possible to really customize the dashboards, the only real hurdle was it used C# and I had yet to learn it, but it seemed kind of easy to pick up, I am guessing it was the PHP, javascript, and jQuery programming that made it easy to start to pick it up. Now I have been writing C# code within Dundas for over a year and have actually created a couple of apps using C# in Visual Studio and now it feels so much easier to learn the new languages, not like it was 10 years ago when looking at C code made me think it was a foreign language.

Using these languages when I could have just as easily stayed a VB/ASP.Net developer has allowed me to become a much more valuable member on the development team and to become very important to the team, which is never a bad thing. I believe it also will have made me more marketable although I am still a little scared to try to get a C# job and I am also a little scared to try a PHP job as well. The only other thing I wish I would have learned as a young developer is graphic design, not to become a designer but just so I could make my apps or webpages look better and more marketable. I highly recommend young developers to learn as much as they can and to maybe start with a C language, which will make it easier to pick up other languages. Those devs should probably also try to learn some design stuff as well, that is almost a requirement now. Broaden your language horizons so that you may be much more marketable and this will definitely help you in the long run.

Later for now.

Jun 202011

I have been using a tool for quite some time that has become almost a requirement on a new install of Windows and I will realize it is missing almost immediately. It is called Ditto and can be downloaded from for free. It is a clipboard manager from Windows and really gives your clipboard, or the copy and paste functionality in Windows, a real boost for productivity’s sake. The main function of it is to allow the copy and paste to remember, depending on your settings, quite a few items. Say you have a few web pages you want to go to from a single location, normally you would copy one url, open a new tab or window, paste it in and hit return, then go back to the old window and do it all over again. With Ditto, you would copy all of the links you wanted to go to one at a time, then create how many tabs or windows you want and then call up ditto and drag the entries to the address bar and away you go. Another instance that I use it for, development, first I set up some hotkeys in Ditto to make pasting easier by setting the Global Hotkeys for the last ten items copied which is on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in the options (I set mine to [CTRL]+[ALT]+[1] through [0]) then I copy however many sections of code I need to keep inserting, and then using the shortcut I paste them where they need to be. Just remember the entries are stored backwards so the most recent entry is in slot 1. I use this tool ALL of the time and think it may help out some other people as well, enjoy. No I am not a developer of it and I also do not get anything for advertising it I just wanted to share.

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