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Podcasting – a whole new world

I’ve been thinking about it for a while and finally decided, “why the heck not?”

I’m going to try my hand at podcasting and figured the best way was to do it on a topic that interests me. So, the topic is (in rather typical Andrew-complicated fashion) “technology in all its forms including gaming, media, TV, software as well as the cool stuff I do at work, and maybe a book or two that I might have read recently”.

So, yeah, you’ll hear me natter on about some of the stuff I think is particularly cool about what I’m doing at work, but I’m also going to try to clearly mark the major topic for a each podcast, so you can pick and choose.

I thought the best way to start was to do one on video gaming, so you’ll find the first one is about Burnout Paradise, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, and Lego Batman as well as a quick chat about Worst Week and My Own Worst Enemy, two new TV shows that just started.

Check it out and let me know what you think (and yes, I am aware that I sound like I have a cold – I do have a cold). 🙂

MrAndyPuppy’s Podcasting Series

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Life goes on…

So my life at Microsoft has been a bit of a whirlwind but everyone warned me that it would happen so I was kind of prepared. It’s a fantastic experience meeting faculty and students and talking technology and all the cool stuff we’re doing to help students get exposed to it as deeply as possible.

One of the things I’ve had to do is take some students over to Redmond in the US for a student conference called Student Daze (you can check out more info on that over at my Microsoft blog – http://blogs.msdn.com/andrewparsons). I’ve only been here a week and head home tonight, but it’s a reminder that life just goes on regardless of where you are.

In that week, I’ve learnt that both my sister-in-law and my cousin have had their babies. All are healthy and well and my whole family is excited about the two new additions (one of each too).

At the same time, one of my dogs decided it was time to make a power play on the matriarch of the pack and left the latter with wounds that required five stitches to sew up and a decidedly more fragile demeanour.

This in addition to the normal day-to-day of school dramas, and other home-life things that pop up regularly.

This isn’t an isolated experience. Both of my wife’s parents passed on separate occasions while I was travelling overseas.

Life does indeed go on without waiting for you to be ready for it.

Posted in Philosophical | 12 Comments

W00T! New Machine

First pics… The front of the Coolermaster case… Managed to get the card reader, as well as three USB 2.0 ports in front. Good start

The back of the case. Yep – 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 Firewire, 2 Gigabit ethernet, 2 x DVI.

Drool – 4 x 2Gb RAM, Quadcore 9400, 2 x 500Gb SATA, and best of all PLENTY of space to grow If you look carefully you can see that there’s four spare SATA ports on the motherboard just waiting for me to ramp up the file storage.

And just check out the size of those fans on everything… Heaps of empty space and the big fans – should be great for cooling/ventilation.

Booted it up into the very sorry looking 32Bit Vista Home that was installed on it – which can only address 3.5Gb RAM – and the WEI score for everything other than the graphics was 5.9 (no graphics driver installed so it only got a 1.0). Now installing 64Bit Vista Ultimate to see what it can do.

Posted in Computers and Internet | 5 Comments

Looks like the cat’s out of the bag

Yes, the rumours are true.

As my soon-to-be-new boss, Roger Lawrence, has just announced tonight, I’ve accepted an offer to come on board the Australian DPE team at Microsoft as the Academic Developer Evangelist. I see this as a culmination of the past 7 or 8 years of my career and various activities, each one in turn seeming to push me further and further in the direction of dedicating myself to the task of enthusing students and the groups of people who look after them about technology.

I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of students, teachers and faculty members and talking about computing technology and can’t quite believe it’s only about 10 days before I officially start with the team. I’d like to take a moment to call out the guys I’ve worked with at Readify for being the best bunch of dev’s, guru’s, techheads, geeks that I’ve had the pleasure of being alongside of. Don’t worry guys – you haven’t heard the last from me by a long shot.

Oh, and for all my fellow student teachers at UNE – yes, I’ll still be studying with you. 🙂

My role as Academic Developer Evangelist covers all of the Microsoft technologies, from the languages such as C# and VB and the tools to use them such as Visual Studio (including the free Express range – how cool is that? Free powerful developer tools – and that’s only the start!), databases such as the soon to be released SQL Server 2008, design tools like Expression Design, and the really cool stuff like Popfly, XNA Game Studio Express, Microsoft Robotics Studio, Photosynth and the whole Live space including Live Mesh (have you checked that out yet? You can keep your data online and accessible from wherever you are. And that’s just software – then there are all the programs and events like Imagine Cup, Student Day and so on… awesome.

I don’t think I’ve thought or said the word "cool" as much as I have in the last 12 months or so with so many of these technologies coming out. And I get to travel the country to talk to universities, schools and students themselves about all of this and more – showing them that technology isn’t simply a commodity to use, but something that can really change the way you approach today’s world.


There’s a huge amount of work for me to do, and I can’t wait to get started!

Posted in Computer and Internet | 11 Comments

Congratulations Team SOAK!

Imagine Cup is an awesome competition run by Microsoft, and open to university students world wide. Every year, students can enter one of half a dozen or more categories to show how they can innovate on a theme. This year, the company I work for – Readify – sponsored the Australian arm of Imagine Cup, promising internships to the top three teams in the Software Development and Design category.

It turned out  that one of the finalists already worked for us, so we had to bow out of the judging of the local comp so that there was no bias, but despite that, Team SOAK, the team with the Readifian, won the Australian competition and headed to France.

The news has just come in – and I mean, JUST – the announcement was made 10 minutes ago in Paris and it was twittered immediately by multiple people – that Team SOAK has won the worldwide competition, beating out some stiff opposition from all corners of the globe.

And not only did they win their category – which is quite simply, an AWESOME achievement – but they also won the Innovation Accelerator award which sends them to the US for a two week business training trip to capitalise on their amazing creation.

Team SOAK built a system that monitors and maintains water usage for farmers and has garnered immense interest from government, non-profit organisations and farmers all over the country, and it’s such a pleasure to know the four keen, young and bright minds who came up with the concept and were able to push it through to such an awesome world stage.

All accounts from Paris say that their presentation got better in every round, and they won the hearts and minds of their competitors and other attendees at the big student gathering.

Way to go Team SOAK – you did an amazing job and you deserve to have the congratulations.

You know – it’s amazing to think that half the world away you can get such immediate information. Thanks to @Rog42, @DavidBurela and @longzheng for keeping us all up to date with what was going on in Paris.


An official link to the winners list for all categories:


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Hmm, I feel like I just wasted some time…

I stumbled on an article posted last week that talked about the top ten technologies that would be in place by 2013, and the top five technologies that would be gone by the same time. "Wow!" I thought, "I love these kinds of articles, they really stretch the mind and make you wonder what’s possible!" So off I went and spent the next 15 minutes reading a multi-page article that seems to regurgitate information from a number of other sources, many of which themselves highlight stuff that’s already in place, and those that don’t are "finger in the air" kind of statements.

If you want to see the article, here’s the link: The Digital Home of 2013

Now, a quick summary of what I think of the author’s points (including direct links to each page):

  1. High-speed telecommunications
    I’m not so sure about this one – we could be even better off than what he’s saying here… oh, hang on, let me rephrase. The US could be even better off – Australia’s probably not. 🙂
  2. It’s an HD world
    Yep, it is. Already.
  3. Gaming gets real
    What’s wrong with Metal Gear Solid 4? I don’t really get his point, and he seemed to just take a cheap shot at gamers for no reason. In fact, if anything, he’s hurting his own point in doing so.
  4. Reach out and touch something
    Yes, I’ll pay this one.
  5. Automated home control
    Yeah, ok. It’s been a long time coming, but this one is probably true.
  6. Green goes mainstream
    Huge discussions already going on, and the public knows it too – why else would GE report such huge increases in sales.
  7. Welcome to the cloud
    Google Docs has already been going on for a while, Microsoft’s Live Mesh is now upon us, and other various bits and pieces are here. Don’t need to wait another five years thanks.
  8. The rise of streaming media
    This is growing every year, and it takes very little thought to throw this in to a list such as this one.
  9. Online distribution of TV, movies
    By his own admission, this is already happening. As in, now. But further to that, it’s just a sub-point of point 8.
  10. Collaborating across town, and across the world
    Dunno about him, but I already work in a company that depends on this. Now. Again, already happening. And using Photoshop Express as an example of good collaborative software? Please!

And the five destined to die technologies:

  1. Blu-ray – huh? I don’t know about that. His argument is kind of the same as saying CDs won’t take off because of the truckloads of cassettes (or vinyl) out there – oh…snap. With HD comes consumables capable of storing HD. I can already dump an hour of video off my $200 handycam and have it nowhere near small enough to fit on a DVD. If I had an affordable Blu-ray burner and consumables, I’d be on it.
  2. Desktop PCs – Yeah, but I don’t see a huge difference between the way most people use laptops and desktops, and I would have liked the author to actually state reasons for why this might happen as opposed to saying it’s based on sales (although that would require actual prediction rather than following existing stats).
  3. Slow mobile networks – well, duh. If we’re talking WiMAX and 4G in Point 1, then it’s a no-brainer to say the corollary.
  4. Locally stored files – I disagree with this, although I suspect that people like Mitch are going to disagree with me in turn. 🙂 What’s the benefit of having your data up on the web? If you’re a traveller then sure, maybe. But for the average home (which this article is supposed to be talking about), I see it as unlikely. Most people will prefer to keep a hold of their data where they can get to it easily, and regardless of how quick your internet access is, it’s still slower than a local network.
  5. Desktop Operating Systems – I don’t get how this can work. What does the browser run on?

*sigh* How about some imagination!? Some creativity!? Maybe even some magic!? Pretty much everything mentioned is either already upon us or will likely be realised in only a year or two – not five. How about for the home:

  • In-built video conferencing in your TV so you can video chat to your relatives overseas (through your gaming console of choice)
  • Live collaborative video editing so you can dump the video of your child’s soccer game on the laptop, and have your wife help you edit it from home.
  • Pet management tools. Feeding, yard care, health monitoring for conditions such as worms, ticks, etc.
  • Health monitoring for your family. Warning signs for the elderly or the infant. Blood pressure monitoring for the highly stressed worker. Automatically dispensing appropriate medication as part of your daily diet.
  • Community Grid Computing and Community Networks. that somehow shares the load of water/electricity/gas consumption. Also, maybe better Neighbourhood Watch that keeps the streets a little bit safer.
  • GPS-everything with more up to date maps and intelligent software that reroutes based on traffic, weather, important dates in your life, etc. Imagine, you’re creating a route to go pick up that amazing tri-level snooker table you picked up for a steal on eBay and the device pops up that it’s also your wedding anniversary and along the way is a place that stocks that brand of handbag your wife loves, so provides an additional routing to incorporate that if you choose to. And then, while you’re out – the Home Automation system kicks in, transmits to your GPS that you’re out of dog food and the GPS pops up a suggested diversion to get it from a pet shop that’s in the vicinity, and promises to get you home on time because it’s found a better path around the peak hour traffic.
  • Integrated kitchen technology. Have the freezer automatically deliver the frozen meal to your microwave, have the microwave cook it to the right level by reading the info off the pack and then deliver it to your serving area. Oh, and have it initiated remotely, so when you’re 10 minutes from home you can kick it off and have it ready when you walk in the door.

Sure, OK… none of these things may happen, but wouldn’t it be kinda cool if they did?

I’m tired… this will probably look completely wrong in the morning… 🙂

Posted in Computers and Internet | 9 Comments

Does Twitter change the way I communicate? “News versus Features”

Without a doubt, yes. And whether it’s Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed or some other derivative branch off the same trunk, I think it’s hard not to be affected by its inclusion in your communications with people.

A little over a week ago I posted a couple of blog entries I’d been thinking about for a little while. They were just opinion piece/rant kind of things, the sort of stuff that personal blogs are made of. If you’re interested in me, you might come and read my blog and get something out of it. If you’re not, you’re not.

Around the same time, my daughter did extremely well in her latest gymnastics competition. In fact, she came second overall at a prestigious invitational, with a first in one of the individual events, and a second in the other two individuals. For Glenda’s (my wife) benefit – I was (and still am) completely 110% proud and impressed that she did so well. She’s been working hard, training many hours every week and she finally got a pay off and I am incredibly happy for her (there’s nothing like that feeling of joy knowing your child is happy for something they did well).

But I digress.

The point I was going to make was that Glenda pointed out that I hadn’t blogged about my daughter doing extremely well. She had a point – I hadn’t. Twelve months ago, I’m pretty sure I would have, but at this point I didn’t. Why not? I think it was the fact that as soon as I knew she’d done well, I’d tweeted about it. I then followed this up with a second tweet with more details and then a little bit later with a twitpic of her holding her medal and ribbons.

In this instance, I see Twitter as kind of like my personal news service, delivering up to the minute news about what’s happening in my life, while the blog is more like the magazine you might read on the weekend. To me, it was important to shout to the world (or at least those in the world that show an interest in what I’m doing) that I was proud of my little girl and the fastest way to get the news out was to tweet it. And once the news was out, the pressure wasn’t there to write up a blog post about it. After all, most of the people who read my blog regularly also read my Twitter feed. They already knew how I felt about her – I even got some very quick "congrats!" tweets back at me.


So, do I need to blog about that circumstance? I don’t think I do any more. It’s news, not a feature article.

A feature article would be me talking about my daughter’s long suffering commitment to training in all types of gymnastics, the multiple days a week she goes to practice and training, the many competitions she has attended. It would talk about how proud I am to be her dad, how it makes me feel all mushy inside when I see her beaming after doing well, and taking it stoically when she doesn’t; how it breaks my heart when her legs are cramping up when she’s trying to get to sleep because she’s pushed herself a little bit too hard.

Every time I see my daughter, my heart lifts a little (or sometimes, a lot!). She is definitely a gift from God for me. In her words, I love her a million love hearts. In mine, I love her even more than that.

Oh, and my son is pretty darned cool too, you know. I don’t get to talk about him as much because he doesn’t do all the flash, but AndyPuppyJnr is an awesome young man – maturing all the time and just being Mr Awesome. He’s loving and caring and loves to be around me and Glenda and his sister. I give him a tougher time than I should, for which I am truly sorry because I love him very much and am so glad that he’s like me in so many ways.

Oh, and to keep my wife happy – AndyPuppyJnr, you rock for doing so well in your Gold Rush assignment! 95%? Fantastic, little buddy!

So if you’re interested in the more "newsy" side of things – check out my twitter feed – http://www.twitter.com/mrandypuppy. Otherwise, feel free to stay tuned here – just realise you may not find out what I had for breakfast! 😉

Posted in Social Networking | 5 Comments

What makes a great developer?

I was recently asked if I could provide an important trait that goes into the make up of a great developer. While there are obvious characteristics around knowing your technology and programming theory, and other such areas, but the one that came to mind immediately was this:
Be Humble
To be a successful developer you have to realise and  recognise your own limitations and not impose yourself over the top of others, particularly in areas in which you may be weak. I’m not saying don’t approach your work, customer, client, whatever with confidence, just don’t approach it with arrogance. There’s nothing quite like someone who thinks they know everything to stop people offering to help them, and in an area for business that’s often quite critical, you need everyone pulling as a team.
I’m quite happy to say "I don’t know’, but I’m also prepared to say "but I’ll try to find out" – which is often followed by the cry of "help!" with the people I work with.
Recognise what you don’t know and be humble.
Some of the other guys who’ve been asked the question have already blogged their thoughts:
Just including some other great tips:
Posted in Computers and Internet | 14 Comments

Why I like technology – part 15,345,234,123!

Technology is cool. Normally I’ll get excited about the "big" stuff – Surface Computing, Silverlight, how sweet Uncharted Drake’s Fortune looks in high def…

But the day to day stuff really rocks my socks as well. Case in point.

My favourite dance group back in the late 80’s was an Aussie group called Boxcar. I had their first album on vinyl – and then later on got their other two on CD. Thing is, about 12-13 years ago, I lost the record. I was devastated because of the memories the songs evoked and while the remixes were still accessible through the CD, they just weren’t the same – I wanted the original.

For years, I would check out music stores, and periodically trawl the web looking for their stuff. As the time went by however, I think my hope died too and I haven’t looked around for that album for a year or so.

When talking to a friend on Friday, I mentioned my desire to still get this album if I could find it, and while it was fresh in my mind, I thought I’d do another web trawl.

And boy, am I thankful that I did.

First hit was pretty much a Wikipedia article on the band, which then linked in turn to other Wikipedia articles for their albums and external links to sites such as discogs and most impressively of all, to Boxcar’s own site. This in turn revealed that they’d made a mini-comeback late last year and were now working on a new album. Their website actually cycles through all of their music, so I was able to hear a couple of favourites that I hadn’t heard for a very long time.

This then gave me hope enough to check eBay out. And yes, someone was selling a copy of Vertigo! With a reasonable Buy It Now price and reasonable shipping. In less than 2 minutes, I had logged into eBay, clicked the buy button, navigated my way through PayPal to pay for it and received the confirmation that I had indeed purchased the CD. Then I noticed that the auction had been due to finish in only 5 minutes after I found it. If any part of that process had fallen over, I wouldn’t have made it in time. But everything worked – Google, Wikipedia, Discogs, Boxcar’s own site, eBay, PayPal…

Five years ago, the information wouldn’t have been present on Wikipedia and even Boxcar’s own site didn’t exist. I might have lucked into an eBay auction, but I had been checking eBay semi-regularly, so maybe not. Internet access was slower, so getting to the finish point of buying the album might not have happened either (and I wouldn’t have even known because finished auctions don’t display by default).

I know it’s small, and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but it was a "cool!" moment for me on Friday when it happened, and here I am 3 days later still with a smile on my face when I think about it.

Technology empowers.

Posted in Computers and Internet | 4 Comments