Monday, 23 February 2009
No, I'm not speaking metaphorically. Apparently in this day and age, on this continent, people are being held against their will, beaten and abused, and forced to work for little or no pay. There's no evidence of an actual slave trade, with people sold from one owner to another, or of babies being born into slavery, but nonetheless there are North American slaves today. Perhaps it's no surprise that the task they are set to, harvesting crops in the warmest parts of the USA, is what most of us have in our heads when we think about long-ago slavery on this continent.
This well researched article in Gourmet, and the articles to which it links, lay it all out. There is no dispute that at least some agricultural workers were in fact enslaved. The only issue is whether it's really common or an isolated incident. Here's a quote:
But when asked if it is reasonable to assume that an American who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store or food-service company during the winter has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave, Molloy said, “It is not an assumption. It is a fact.”
Hm. Another reason to eat locally and seasonally. I do realize that our insistence on the lowest price for everything is one of the pressures that make abuses like this seem a reasonable course to some people. The article concludes with this suggestion if you, like me, like to buy tomatoes in the winter:
... take advantage of the fact that fruits and vegetables must be labeled with their country of origin. Most of the fresh tomatoes in supermarkets during winter months come from Florida, where labor conditions are dismal for field workers, or from Mexico, where they are worse, according to a CIW spokesman. One option during these months is to buy locally produced hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes, including cluster tomatoes still attached to the vine. Greenhouse tomatoes are also imported from Mexico, however, so check signage or consult the little stickers often seen on the fruits themselves to determine their source.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
If you've been to a big conference in the past few years you'll have seen the name David Platt on the speaker list, and usually scheduled into the big room. Dave's superbly entertaining speaking style delivers valuable information about user interface design and genuinely meeting the needs of the folks who use the systems you're developing.
Here's an interview with Dave recorded at Tech Ed, and on the Tech Ed Europe sessions page, if you click through to page 2, you can see the one hour version of his talk.
Since Dave mentions used car salesmen in his interview, I'll share a little joke with you. What's the difference between a computer salesman and a used car salesman? The used car salesman knows when he's lying to you.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
One of the major reasons to go to Tech Ed is to meet other people in the industry. Everyone says you get the best jobs, the best advice, the best learning opportunities if you happen to know a lot of people, and the way to know a lot of people is to meet people and talk to them. But haven't we all had trouble finding someone to speak to at conferences? I always seem to end up at a table of sysadmins who know more about PowerShell than would seem humanly possible, or some hardcore DBA types who spend the lunch swapping tales of index problems from hell. If they're having a really technical conversation that's over my head, that's a meeting opportunity come and gone.
Over the years Tech Ed has tried lots of ways to help people find like minded people to talk to. Once you're on site, there are Cabanas or Track Lounges or whatever they call the informal place from year to year. These are great. But what about in the months leading up to Tech Ed? This year, there's something called Tech Ed Connect. You enter some details about yourself and are shown a map where people with similar interests appear closer to you. Mouse over someone and you see their user name (looks like many people are using their name, or initials) possibly a picture, and some details.
(I had to put IE8 in compatibility mode to see the map, by the way.)
You also get a "quick connect" card that can help people find you using this site. Here's mine:
Give it a whirl!
Friday, 20 February 2009
Some time ago, I told you about an issue with the Tech Ed DVDs and Silverlight versions. I also gave you a workaround for how to play the sessions after looking up the session numbers in a PDF document that functioned as an index. Now Laurent Duveau, a Canadian MVP, has gone one better ... he's written a utility that will fix up the index on the DVDs so you can have an all-electronic experience. Nice work!
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Another Dan Griffin sample you might want to look at is the EC2 Console. I think his description from the first post in that category sums up his approach very nicely:
The purpose of the EC2 Console, like the other ones, is to demonstrate an attractive (WPF-based), novel, and useful application on Windows. In this case, we chose as our vehicle a helpful control panel for Windows developers who are new to cloud computing and would like to experiment with Windows Server, ASP.NET, and MS SQL on Amazon’s EC2 platform.
As it happens, Amazon already has an EC2 console (currently in Beta). But we’re going to differentiate ourselves from that in two ways. First, our EC2 Console will be specific to developers targetting Windows, and we can automate many administration tasks given that assumption. Second, our console (again, a WPF client app) will exhibit the kind of superior usability that is very difficult to achieve via the browser.
Client applications have many more advantages than just offline availability. Here's an application that's only useful when you're online, but is going to be a client application anyway. Follow along and see why.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Dan Griffin is working on some samples for client development and blogging his progress as he writes them. His SPOS sample combines workflow with access to local hardware (in this case, a fingerprint reader) to create an application where you could approve, say, purchase orders with a fingerprint swipe. It's a good example of the kind of application that is better as a local client application than something web-based and browser hosted.
He's created a Codeplex site where interim releases are appearing, and a blog category where you can follow his progress, read his musings on what fingerprint reader to buy, and so on. This is a sample designed for you to use in your own work, so follow along and see if it can help you.
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
I have a favourite piece of advice, and I give it even though it frustrates many recipients. If you want to write, write! If you want to get into public speaking, speak in public! If you want to start a user group, start a user group! If you want to be an MVP, do what MVPs do (advise others and solve problems and volunteer for stuff) and you'll start to get the benefit even before you get the award. I'm not quite saying Just Do It but the fact is the barriers to entry are very very small these days and possibly non existent. Technical writing especially - start a blog or get active on newsgroups and presto, you're writing! Listen to feedback (people telling you you're wrong is bad, people thanking you for your answer or quoting you elsewhere is good) and you will get better. Public speaking isn't much harder to crack because the world is full of user group leaders and similar folks who need someone to speak to them month after month. It's also full of Code Camps and other places to get started (they tend to come with coaching and encouragement too.)
Still some people don't like this advice. They feel held back from what they want to do, and they don't like to be told "nothing is holding you back, you can start whenever you want." Alternatively, they don't want to speak or write or lead for free, they want to be paid for it, and they don't like the idea of starting for free and working hard for years to get that overnight success. So here's a rephrasing that maybe you'll prefer: "80% of success is just showing up." It's attributed to Woody Allen, not a guy I would normally take advice from, but it sure is accurate. Go to the meeting, open the document you're supposed to be writing, be there when someone asks for volunteers, go to the whiteboard and draw as much as you know, put your shoes on and go outside, ... not all at once of course, but these are the "just showing up" tasks that get you on the road to success. Try it.
Monday, 16 February 2009
Paul and Kimberly are so romantic! Paul started it with a Valentines Day post about how to be a better speaker, giving lots of credit to his lovely wife. So naturally she followed up with a post of her own. If you've never seen Kimberly speak, you really should, even if you don't know anything about her topics. We're often speaking at the same time but the few times I've managed to get free time and sneak into the back of her room, I've been tremendously entertained and learned more about SQL Server as well. I know, too, how much time sweating demos, rewriting things, practicing, and just plain working hard goes into being so entertaining and accurate. You start to get a sense of that by reading these posts - from the tiniest detail of what to wear to the vital "practise your demos" and "show up for your tech check" you can understand that what matters most is caring. If you want to give a great talk you will do all that it takes to give that great talk.
None of their tips are SQL-specific. Read them and you're on the way to getting better. Get out there and do some talks with this in mind, and you're really starting to get it.
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