A Few Technical Notes From My Return to Work
Two weeks ago, I started a new job. Not surprisingly, my last post here was 15 days ago. As I expected, things got really busy, really quickly. I’m not quite ready to do a full write up on what going back to work has been like… I’m going to wait until I’m closer to a full month to do that. But I do have a few random technical notes I thought I’d pass along.
- Now that I’m out of the house more, I get to see my iPhone 5 in action. The LTE speed is impressive, and just serves to point out how absolutely crappy the wi-fi on the phone is. Images and videos load almost instantly while out in the wilds of Seattle, but sitting in my living room, just 40 feet from my router, I barely get any throughput.
- The downside of the LTE is that using any kind of streaming (i.e. MLB.com to listen to a baseball game) kills my battery halfway through the game. I usually listen to music at work as well, but with the iPhone 5, I have to stop 2/3rds of the way through my day so I have enough battery left to make a call on the way home if I need to. I don’t remember having that issue with my 3GS (at least not when it was new).
- The iPhone 5 also gets really warm when using LTE or has the screen on… so much so that I have to set it on my desktop, instead of in my pocket when streaming audio so I don’t burn my leg. But at least it lets me know when an app is running and burning down the battery.
- The laptop I was given for my new job came equipped with Microsoft Windows 8. Two weeks is a pretty good length of time to evaluate a product. My evaluation? “Why?” I am constantly frustrated by the OS—not because I can’t figure it out—but because they made things that used to be easy and logical, into a demonstration of “look how cool this is”. And it’s not. I’m continuously shaking my head at it, or worse, banging my head against my desk. I spend zero time on the tiles screen except when I have to search for something that used to be easily found through the old Start menu. Sure, there are a couple of things that work better than Windows 7 (like the Search Feature), but it would have been so much better to introduce that feature into the Windows 7 paradigm. Other than that, Windows 8 seems like a complete disaster from a productivity standpoint, and I’ll be keeping my home PC’s on Windows 7 for the foreseeable future.
- I’ve also spent the last two weeks getting used to Visual Studio 2012. I can’t say I’m overly impressed with the new UI for that either. I’ll probably get used to it, but the new interface for Team Explorer hides the features I use most, and requires more clicks to do things than I would prefer. The Test Explorer seems to be lacking pieces that were just intuitive in the past, and I’ve stopped using it altogether in favor of Resharper’s Test Explorer. I’ve also had at least three times where the UI starts behaving erratically, forcing me to restart it to allow me to continue working. The jury is still out on whether or not VS2012 is an upgrade to VS2010 (at least from the UI perspective). I’m not a big fan of the chrome-less look of Windows 8… it just makes things look unfinished.
- Speaking of Resharper—it’s the first tool I always install on my PC after setting up the basics. The latest version of that doesn’t disappoint. This tool is still the greatest productivity add-on for Visual Studio that I’ve ever found. In job interviews, I always ask if the team is using it. If they aren’t, and aren’t willing to let me use it, I probably won’t consider working there. Luckily, my new team insists on using it.
- One of the pleasant technical discoveries I’ve made in the last few weeks is pluralsight.com. I used to buy (and lug around) 800 page books each time a new technology came out, and then those books would sit on my shelves for years until I gave them away. With the speed at which technology changes these days, they’re only relevant for a year or two at best, some for just a few months. For $29 a month, Pluralsight gives me access to dozens of very good training courses on the technology I need to do the projects I’m working on right now, and I’m learning a lot. I’m going to buy a tablet (probably a Kindle Fire HD) just so I can watch more of these courses while commuting.
- I’ve also become a recent convert to feedly.com as a blog aggregator. I used to use Outlook as an RSS feed collector, but each time I transferred jobs, I lost my list of feeds. I was going to use Google Reader, but at about the same time I was making that decision, Google decided to abandon the app. I watched the debates about which app would fill that gap, and chose feedly. I haven’t been disappointed. I set up my feeds, and read them on my phone on the train on the way in to, or home from work. It’s synched up to my PC as well, and it’s really easy to add another blog if I need to.
Jumping back into the workforce has stretched me out of my comfort zone technologically, but I’ve found some new tools that help me to be more efficient with my time and more effort. If you have any suggestions for other tools I absolutely must use, please let me know.