Review of 2009

Sunday, January 3, 2010 3:26 PM by Michael Paladino

2009 was quite a year:

Since fxpro com this is my technical blog, I won’t spend too much time on the personal stuff, but I do want to talk a bit about my experiences at Rockfish.

Rockfish

Rockfish Interactive is a fast-moving company that repeatedly puts out high-quality work due to the level of talent of its employees and vision of its leaders.  Being here this past year has definitely challenged me and helped me to grow tremendously in a number of areas. 

One of the biggest things that excites me about the company is the dedication to innovation and creation of new products and technology.  While a lot of companies talk about this, Rockfish has fx pro login actually followed through via its Rockfish Labs division of which I’m proud to be a part. Rockfish had previously launched products such as Fourthbook, CrazyHotJob, and FileSend but never had dedicated resources for this type of work.  With Rockfish Labs staff has been allocated to specifically focus on building these types of products and technologies, and you should expect to see quite a bit of exciting offerings coming up in 2010.

TidyTweet

TidyTweet was the first product on which Rockfish Labs focused.  A free version launched in early July and then won the Developer Launchpad Session at The Twitter Conference in Los Angeles later in September.  In October we then added a “Business” option and began to see our first paying customers. 

TidyTweet represented the bulk of my work at Rockfish in 2009, and I learned quite a bit from the project regarding software development.  I also got experience launching a public-facing product and look forward to the time when I can help do that again.

Regrets

With all the craziness that 2009 brought, there were some things in my life that have definitely been neglected.  Due to time constraints, I’ve had to regretfully take a metatrader 4 online step back from my involvement in the Fort Smith .NET User Group and the technology community in general.  Luckily, the group has some great leadership in David Mohundro and the other officers who I’m confident will help it to continue to grow and be successful.

I’ve also let my relationship with God suffer this year.  It seems silly to even list this in this post as the magnitude of that statement dwarfs the importance of anything else I’ve written about.  Nevertheless, it’s something I’m aware of, and I want to publicly commit to working on it.  Relationships of any sort require quality time and energy if they are to flourish, and I intend to devote more of both to my relationship with the Lord in 2010.

Wrap Up

It’s been a great year on a number of levels and I’m excited about 2010. 

Professionally, at Rockfish I’m fortunate to have some great projects lined up in 2010.  I’m excited to work on them and look forward to when I can talk about them publicly. 

Personally, God has blessed me with a loving wife and family, and I look forward to all that we’ll get to do together this coming year.

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TidyTweet.com

Sunday, July 12, 2009 10:43 PM by Michael Paladino
Those of you that follow me on Twitter have probably already heard, but my employer, Rockfish Interactive, has released a new product called TidyTweet that is designed to help website owners filter their embedded Twitter feeds and block Twitter spam.  Check out an example of the filtered Twitter feed on the right side of this page. I'm posting about the project here because I am fortunate enough to currently be the primary developer on the project.  

The Concept
The idea came about when we had a site using a Twitter feed that became popular enough to draw the attention of spammers.  The experience made us realize that if we wanted to continue to integrate these types of elements from Twitter, we would have to provide some sort of moderation mechanism.  We started looking around for products to handle this for us and found that there were none.  Thus TidyTweet was born.

I'll let you check out the TidyTweet.com website, an interview with me on Jay Thornton's blog, and the article on Mashable.com for more details about the product itself.  With this being a mostly technical blog, I thought I'd share a bit about the technology behind the product as well as some of the obstacles and planned enhancements.

Technologies
We used ASP.NET web forms for the front-end, LINQ to SQL for data access, and jQuery for any client-side work.  So far all have worked out well, and I have no complaints.  We're making extensive use of HTTP Handlers to allow for custom URL extensions such as *.atom and *.widget.  HTTP Handlers are relatively easy to implement, provide performance benefits over standard ASPX pages, and provide cleaner URLs vs. something like *.aspx?format=atom.

Twitter API
We're obviously making extensive use of the Twitter API. I initially did those calls via HTTP requests but midway through the project found TweetSharp.  TweetSharp provides an clean wrapper around the API and is very convenient for getting up and running quickly with the Twitter API.  Working with the Twitter API is tricky due to the latency involved in the HTTP requests, potential for downtime on Twitter's side, and the rate limits.  We've worked through all of these things, but performance is definitely a concern and will be a continual source of refactoring.

That's just a small taste of the project from the technology side of things.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you would like me to go into any further details.  Obviously, a large amount of the code is confidential, but I can certainly discuss some of the technologies in general terms. 
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New Role with INETA: Membership Mentor for Arkansas

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 11:18 PM by Michael Paladino

In addition to my full-time job, I have recently been appointed to the volunteer position of Membership Mentor for Arkansas within INETA.  According to their website, “INETA provides structured, peer-based organizational, educational, and promotional support to the growing worldwide community of Microsoft® .NET user groups.”  Basically, they help support .NET-focused user groups by providing access to high-quality speakers and providing leadership guidance and advice when needed.

I have just started in this new role, and I’m sure my understanding of it will evolve over the next few months.  But for now my understanding is that my job will be to help any new groups successfully complete the INETA registration process as well as provide general support to the existing groups in Arkansas.  I hope to help coordinate speaker tours in the area and would like to continue to encourage communication amongst the Arkansas user groups which should be an easy task considering the previous work put in by Randy Walker and Jay Smith to schedule a monthly call amongst all the groups.

I’ll be taking over this position from Randy Walker who was appointed as the Director of Speakers for INETA.  From what I know of Randy and what I’ve heard from others, I have some very big shoes to fill.  Hopefully, I can build on Randy’s efforts and continue to help build the .NET community in our region.

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A New Adventure

Saturday, March 7, 2009 11:11 PM by Michael Paladino

For those of you that haven't yet heard, I have accepted a developer position with Rockfish Interactive in Bentonville, AR and will be starting work there on March 16.  It seems so simple to write that, but that sentence means so much to my family and me.

The End of an Era

The last almost 4 years of my life, I have been blessed to work at EagleOne in Fort Smith, AR.  During that time, I've grown tremendously in the areas of software development, knowledge of the transportation industry, and business knowledge in general.  I've been able to work with some great people at a great company and wish them success in the future. 

My manager's support also helped encourage me to start the Fort Smith .NET User Group which has been a huge growth opportunity for me as well.  Through that group, I've met a lot of really bright people and made some good friendships. 

Hopefully, all those experiences have helped to prepare me for the role I'll be moving to next week.

The Beginning of a New Adventure

March 16 I will begin work as a web developer for Rockfish Interactive in Bentonville, AR.  Forgive me if I get overly excited here, but it's hard not to when looking at Rockfish.  First of all, check out their portfolio.  There are some pretty large customers in that group and some pretty impressive work as well.  After having written mainly business-focused internal applications for a big chunk of my career, I am thrilled to get to work with some of the incredibly talented designers at Rockfish.  Also, check out what they have to say about working at Rockfish.  In addition to getting to work with some of the latest technologies, there is a ton of other cool stuff to get excited about including a Silver Joe's coffee bar in the office, catered lunches on Friday, and a relaxed dress code (most people typically wear jeans).

For the technology folks reading this blog (which I'm assuming is most of you), check out the list of some of the technologies used.  I'm really excited to see the code base that they have in place and am looking forward to getting to dig into some new technologies like Flex with which I have very little experience.

The Personal Side

My wife and I have been considering a move from Fort Smith back to Northwest Arkansas off and on for a couple of years now.  We've got a 2-year-old daughter and a baby boy due June 1 and getting closer to family up around Eureka Springs, AR is a priority for us.  We're in the process of selling our home and will be moving to the Bentonville area as soon as that task is accomplished.  Until then, I'll have about a 1 hour 20 minute commute each way.  That should provide lots of time to catch up on my podcasts :)  Anyway, as you can tell, I'm looking forward to the move both professionally and personally.

A Final Word of Thanks

Just wanted to say a final word of thanks to all of you who have helped with job leads and provided encouragement during this time.  Your assistance and support is greatly appreciated.

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FIX: Visual Studio PowerCommands 2008 Crashes Visual Studio 2008 SP1

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:06 AM by Michael Paladino

This post is mainly as a reminder to myself of how to fix this issue in case it ever comes up again.  I've had to do it on other computers before, but just started experiencing it on a different machine again today.

For me, when trying to add items to the toolbox in Visual Studio 2008 SP1, Visual Studio would crash and just disappear with no error message.  The event log displayed a message of ".NET Runtime version 2.0.50727.3053 - Fatal Execution Engine Error (72BD5E00) (80131506)".

EventLog

The problem ended up being related to PowerCommands for Visual Studio 2008 which I've blogged about before and really like.  The solution is well documented in a forum post by Nick McCready at http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/vssetup/thread/e2434065-9921-4861-b914-9cc9d6c55553/?ffpr=0.  I'll just quote directly from that entry:

Through Microsoft's help they came up with a work around which is a simple modification to the devenv.exe.config file.

This will exist in (64 bit systems) C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE

Or (32 bit systems) C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE

Add this XML token to the dependentAseembly list. They had me add it after the office one, but im not sure if that matters.

            <dependentAssembly>
                <assemblyIdentity name="office" publicKeyToken="71e9bce111e9429c" culture="neutral"/>
                <codeBase version="12.0.0.0" href="PrivateAssemblies\Office12\Office.dll"/>
            </dependentAssembly>

<!-NEW STUFF-->
            <dependentAssembly>
                <assemblyIdentity name="Microsoft.PowerCommands" publicKeyToken="null" culture="neutral"/>
                <codeBase version="1.1.0.0" href="C:\Program Files (x86)\PowerCommands\Microsoft.PowerCommands.dll"/>
            </dependentAssembly>

I hope that solution works for anyone else that might be having the same problem.  Thanks to Nick for the solution.

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First Episode of User Group Radio: Starting the Fort Smith .NET User Group with Michael Paladino

Thursday, January 8, 2009 4:01 PM by Michael Paladino

Jay Smith has just posted the first full episode of User Group Radio, a “monthly podcast dedicated to helping user group and technical community leaders share guidance and best practices”.  Interestingly enough, he chose me to be the first guest as I along with a few others have recently gone through the process of starting the Fort Smith .NET User Group.  In this episode, we discuss various issues surrounding starting a user group such as venue, sponsorship, speakers, marketing, etc.

Jay has plans to talk to a lot of people much more interesting than me in the next few shows, so the show should be worth a listen for anyone interested in user groups and technical communities.

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5 Reasons I Love TweetDeck

Monday, November 10, 2008 4:19 PM by Michael Paladino

I have used Twitter now for a few months and have really enjoyed the experience.  If you don't know what Twitter is, check out the wikipedia entry or this short YouTube video for more information before reading the rest of this post.  During the time I've used Twitter, I've tried quite a few clients including Twhirl, Digsby, and Witty, but my favorite by far has been TweetDeck.  I've mentioned to others how much I've enjoyed using it so often that I thought I'd go ahead and write a blog post about it.

Below, I've listed the top 5 reasons I love TweetDeck with an explanation of each.  Enjoy!

  1. Groups

    Of the Twitter clients I've seen, TweetDeck is the only one with the concept of "Groups".  I follow over 100 people, some of whom are friends I've actually met in person, and others whom I may not personally know but "tweet" about things that I'm interested in.  I don't mind missing tweets from those in the latter group, but I like to monitor those of my personal friends more closely.  With the concept of groups, TweetDeck allows me to setup a group (I call it "Personal Friends") and choose the people whom I choose to keep up with the most.  Then I can more closely monitor that group while paying less attention to the "All Tweets" group.

    Click image to enlarge
    TweetDeck - Groups


  2. Local Search
        
    Any tweets downloaded by TweetDeck within the last 48 hours get cached locally.  TweetDeck offers a "Local" search that allows you to search through those cached tweets.  This comes in handy if I remember someone tweeting about something but can't remember who or when.

    Click image to enlarge
    TweetDeck - Local Search

     
  3. Global Search - Topics of Interest - Long Term

    TweetDeck also has a "Global" search that will create a column of all tweets matching the typed-in search term.  It will update every time the rest of your tweets update.  This feature allows me to track tweets on topics that I am deeply interested in.  For example, I have global searches for SubSonic and INETA to keep up with anything that is being said about those topics.

    Click image to enlarge
    TweetDeck - Global Search


  4. Global Search - Topics of Interest - Short Term
        
    I also use the global search feature to track certain events like conferences.  For example during Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), I had a global search setup for "PDC" that allowed me to keep up with what folks were talking about surrounding that event.  Once the event is over, I delete that search.

    Click image to enlarge
    TweetDeck - Remove Global Search


  5. Global Search - My Twitter Name

    Finally, one of the issues that bugged me prior to TweetDeck was that I had a hard time seeing my own tweets and replies in context.  I might see a reply that I sent to a tweet from a couple of hours before, but that tweet might be way down the list and difficult to find.  With TweetDeck, I've created a global search of my twitter name (mpaladino).  TweetDeck then creates a column showing all of my tweets as well as any replies directed at me.  This really makes it easier to see the context of an entire conversation.

    Click image to enlarge
    TweetDeck - Global Search on Twitter ID


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Upcoming Community Events

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 10:28 AM by Michael Paladino

As a .NET developer in the south central portion of the United States, I am very fortunate to have access to a large number of high quality but free or low cost community events.  I wanted to make sure that people are aware of a couple of these events in November and a couple more in January.

I am planning on attending the We Are Microsoft Charity Weekend and am hoping to put together a team of five from Fort Smith.  In fact, Tim Rayburn has graciously offered to give us 2 copies of Windows Vista if we can get a team together.  We've already got a couple of people committed with some others who are still thinking it over. Please let me know soon if you're interested as the deadline to register is November 28.

If you're interested in keeping up-to-date on these types of events in the area, the blogs of Chris Koenig and Zain Naboulsi would be great places to start.  They are both developer evangelists for Microsoft for the South Central District (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas) and often post about local events.

  • AgileDotNet Conference 2008
    Dallas, TX
    November 14, 2008 (Friday)
    Cost: Free
    Improving Enterprises in conjunction with Microsoft and the Dallas C# SIG invite you to an exciting one-day event to bring together the world of Microsoft .NET development with the world of Agile methods. Designed for both those experienced with Agile techniques and for those new to them, attendees can expect interesting presentations based on real-world experience from some of the industry’s leading Project Managers, Developers, and Business Analysts who have embraced Agile principles within .NET development environments.
  • TechDays 2008
    Dallas, TX
    November 18-20 (Tuesday-Thursday)
    Cost: Free
    If technology is the backbone of your business, you won't want to miss out on the TechDays '08 event in Dallas. Filled with exclusive product information presented by insider experts, TechDays '08 will show developers, IT professionals, IT executives, and partners how Microsoft technology can take their business to the next level.
  • We Are Microsoft Charity Challenge Weekend
    Dallas, TX
    January 16-19 (Friday-Sunday)
    Cost: Free
    The We Are Microsoft - Charity Challenge Weekend is a software development competition for a good cause. This 3-day event matches developers with charities to develop applications for those charities. At the end of the 3 days, all of the participants will vote and the winners will be proclaimed champion coders.
  • MSDN Developer Conference
    Dallas, TX
    Friday, January 26 (Monday)
    Cost: Free
    Prepare yourself for a demanding future. Attend the MSDN Developer Conference. Experience Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Platform. Create applications that seamlessly bridge the gaps between PC, Web, and phone. Be among the first to see Windows 7. See the latest advances in Multi-Touch Application Development. Take your .NET skills to the next level. See sessions on WPF 4.0, Silverlight 2, ASP.NET 4.0, Parallel Programming, Live Mesh and more.

Tulsa TechFest 2008 Recap

Monday, October 13, 2008 10:09 PM by Michael Paladino

Tulsa TechFest 2008 Last Thursday and Friday, I was lucky enough to get to attend Tulsa TechFestDavid Walker and the other volunteers did a great job and put on a great event.  The quality and quantity of both the keynote speakers and the session speakers were outstanding.  Here were some of the highlights for me:

  • Loose Coupling by Caleb Jenkins: I've read about these concepts such as Dependency Injection (DI) before, but Caleb brings an energy to his talks that made this well worth the time.  Hopefully, I can start to put some of this into practice.
  • Continuous Integration by Rob Reynolds: Rob started with just a Visual Studio project and walked through installing and configuring a build server with CruiseControl.NET.  There's a lot of XML configuration and the setup looked to be a bit tedious, but it looked great once it was all setup and running correctly.  Again, this is something I hope to experiment with in the next few weeks.
  • Becoming a .NET Jedi with ReSharper by Ben Scheirman: Ben did a great job of showing what's possible with ReSharper.  I came out of the talk fired up about getting more proficient with it, but it appears that a lot of the functionality that he showed has not been implemented in the VB version.  I'll have to spend more time with this to try and see what all is available.
  • Building a Blog with ASP.NET MVC by Ben Scheirman: Ben did another good presentation on creating a blog using the new ASP.NET MVC framework.  I actually tried to follow along with this one on my laptop but had difficulties with some of the C# to VB translations and didn't have some of the third party components installed.  I still got a lot out of it and want to dig into this as well.  Ben also briefly mentioned jQuery towards the end of his talk so I went ahead and downloaded it and started experimenting.  Wow!  Really looking forward to getting more into this as well.
  • Toshiba A305 LaptopPrizes: Again, wow!  David Walker managed to get a ton of prizes from books to software to a couple of laptops and a 50" TV.  The really cool part about it is I actually won one of the 2 laptops!  It's a Toshiba Satellite A305 with pretty good specs: 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of ram, 320GB hard drive, built-in webcam and lots of goodies.  It's much more powerful than my existing Dell that I've been using for developing, so I am planning on using it as my development laptop.  It's a little glossy and smudges easily, but I'm getting used to it.  And, hey, you can't beat the price!  I carpooled to Tulsa with fellow Fort Smith .NET User Group member Michael Johnson who also walked away with Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite with MSDN Premium subscription worth over $10,000.  So I'd say it was worth the trip for us.

I was also privileged to get to speak this year.  I've spoken to our local user group before, but this was my first time to speak at a large event like this.  I spoke about SubSonic again and only had about 8 people attend.  But participation was good and hopefully the attendees got enough of a feel for it to be able to make a decision as far as whether or not to investigate it any more.

I'll definitely do my best to make Tulsa TechFest a yearly event.  With such high-quality events such as this, Dallas TechFest, and DevLink, I really don't see the ROI being worth it on the larger and more expensive conferences such as TechEd or PDC.

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Screencast - SQL Examiner Suite 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008 4:10 PM by Michael Paladino

Monday, October 6, I'll be presenting a brief demo of SQL Examiner Suite 2008 at the monthly Fort Smith .NET User Group meeting prior to the main presentation by Scott Cate.  I went ahead and recorded a screencast of that presentation for anyone who might be interested.

SQL Examiner Suite consists of a couple of tools, SQL Examiner and SQL Data Examiner, that allow the user to compare and synchronize database schemas and data.  It's a tool that I use on a regular basis and have found to be invaluable in my software development. 

As a disclaimer, the makers of SQL Examiner Suite, TulaSoft, are one of the sponsors of the Fort Smith .NET User Group, and I am using a free copy that I won at one of the meetings.  However, it was my decision to make this presentation to the group and to create this screencast and neither were in any way solicited by TulaSoft.

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