Why to Submit Talks to PyCon and CodeMash

The deadlines for the calls for proposals and speakers for PyCon and CodeMash are coming up – October 1st (this Thursday) is the closing date. Have you submitted your talks yet?

If you haven’t submitted your talks yet, why not?

Let me tell you why you should submit to speak at these conferences.

PyCon

Last year was my first year speaking at a Python conference. I was totally nervous – speaking in front of a community that I wasn’t truly familiar with. And I was speaking on a Microsoft-related topic – I wasn’t sure how well it would be received. Speaking on IronPython at PyCon 2009 turned out to be a great experience.

What did I learn from speaking at PyCon 2009? A few things…

1. The Python community isn’t as anti-Microsoft as some of the other communities that I’ve seen. I’ve heard stories from some of my IronRuby counterparts on how difficult it is to speak on a Microsoft language where the Evil Empire perception is still there. Sure, I get teased every now and then, but overall, they seem to be a little curious about IronPython.

2. The Python community actually has a few implementations under its umbrella. Jython, PyPy, CPython, IronPython, Unladen Swallow… just to name a few implementations of Python. This conference is about all things Pythonesque – including the various implementations. So if you know a little about any of them, check this conference out. And if you’ve got something to talk about – be it some package you’ve been working on, how to get started learning about one of the implementations, or other Python-related topics – then submit your talk today!

3. The Python community has an unique sense of humor. With a language named for something as fun as Monty Python, the silly humor continues throughout their community. I mean, c’mon… the Django pony? Beards of Python? You never know what to expect with them!

4. The Python community that comes together programs together. They have Open Spaces and tutorials, which I’ve seen at other conferences. They also have these things called sprints – where Pythonistas get together and work on contributing to projects – be it fixing bugs or adding features. Although I couldn’t stay for the sprints, it was interesting to hear what they are and how they work.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to speak at PyCon 2010 due to schedule conflicts, but I highly recommend you submit talks and take part in a great international conference.

To submit your talks for PyCon, check out their Call for Proposals.

CodeMash

My buddy Russ had mentioned it to me first, and then shortly after meeting him, my friend Jeff mentioned it to me. After almost a year of them giving me a hard time missing CodeMash 2008, I had the experience of attending and speaking at CodeMash 2009. It was then that I finally understood why the guys gave me such a hard time for missing it.

CodeMash is a platform-agnostic conference geared for coders (developers and architects alike), put on by members of various coding communities. To add another degree of awesomeness to it, this is a conference that happens in January at an indoor waterpark – the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s a great time for families to spend time together in the waterpark and for developers to learn about things that we as developers should know and care about, as well as new things to learn about.

What did I learn from speaking at CodeMash 2009? A few things…

1. The list of languages continues to grow. Topics are all over the board, at various levels. I encourage developers to look into languages other than what they’re used to in order to become a well-rounded developer. Some of the languages that have appeared at past CodeMashes include (but are not limited to) IronPython, Python, Jython,IronRuby, Ruby, Javascript, C#, F#, SQL, PHP, Erlang, Scala, Groovy, and Java.

2. It isn’t all about languages – methodologies and practices are talked about as well. Lean, Kanban, thrashing, continuous integration, and Agile are just a few of the topics covered from 2009.

3. Did I ever mention that there’s quite a bit of fun too? I’ve already been told by my husband that I will be dragged to the waterpark at least on the last day of the event. I’ve heard a lot of stories of how fun the rides are – so next year, I will give up the Rock Band for one night to go play. Yes, a couple of the sponsors had Rock Band at their booths, so there was Rock Band to be had. Last year, one of my favorite fun geeky things to play with was the Microsoft Surface. One of the guys had a robot there as well that really struck me as cool. There’s a lot of geek factor and fun – but don’t take my word for it! Come out and experience it for yourself!

You can see the topics covered at last year’s CodeMash here to get a feel for what kind of talks are given. If you’ve got something to talk about that you know other developers can benefit from, submit your talks today!

Conclusion

October 1st is only a few days away. Speaking at these events will get your name out to the community, along with the message you’re trying to convey. It’s a good chance to network with other speakers and talented developers in the community. If you get the opportunity to speak at conferences like these, I highly recommend it.

Appending to the Zune + Audiobooks = SUX series

Note: This is just a complaint on an incomplete feature that happens to apply also to the Zune HD. I will blog separately on the Zune HD experience as a whole after spending a week or so with it. Here’s hoping the overall experience is as awesome as the video clarity!

So I’ve recently gotten a Zune HD (as in the UPS guy dropped it off today). One of the first things I had to check was the Zune HD interface to see if it was any better for audiobooks.

Obviously, they don’t design Zunes with audiobooks in mind. Or if they do, the testers have been sleeping on that feature since the Zune 3.0 release.

Honestly, it kills me to see that they took the time to add the feature in the Zune 3.0 software but they didn’t put in a fully-managed audiobook system. You can easily transfer audiobooks through a 3rd party step-by-step wizard to the device, and they appear in an “audiobooks” list on the device. But there’s no simple way to delete the files. It’s nice to listen to audiobooks on a Zune device, but it’s a lot of work to clear off audiobooks from the device. (Yes, the Zune HD needs to go through the same non-intuitive process that I’ve linked to in the past Zune + Audiobooks = SUX posts.)

Maybe the Zune will come around with a fully-managed audiobook system in Zune 5.0? I won’t hold my breath. But as a friend once said, audiobooks are the Achilles heel of the Zunes – and it still holds true, even with the Zune HD.

Web Dev SIG 9/19 Recap

Yesterday, I spoke at the vendor-agnostic Web Development SIG. They’ve started the Google Chronicles series by covering four Google products:

  • Google Analytics/Urchin
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Maps

You can see my slides here:

I’d encourage you to download the presentation though and check out the speaker notes for more information on the screenshots.

Google Analytics and Chrome

I walked the group through getting started with setting up an account for Google Analytics and getting the tracking code on their sites. You’ll notice that my screenshots show 0 data — this is intentional. When Stuart had asked me to speak at the SIG on these topics, I figured I’d add the Analytics code to Cleveland Tech Events specifically for this. He has also scheduled a full meeting in December on web site statistics packages and how we can benefit from them. So if you’re curious about my traffic on Cleveland Tech Events, come on out to the December Web Dev SIG meeting to get an in-depth view of the statistics.

I was also asked to cover Google Chrome, from a web developer’s perspective. I have to admit – the more I looked into Chrome for this presentation, the more I was excited about it. I remember that when it was launched, there was quite a bit of negative feedback. It wasn’t until I saw one of my co-workers with it on his desktop that I started considering it. Now, it’s one of the many browsers that I test for my websites. Everything in my slides on Google Chrome comes with the default installation – I did not have anything extra installed for those features to work. The Web Inspector, Resource Tracker, Script Debugger, and Task Manager are all part of the Google Chrome base. (And yes, I did change my default search engine in Chrome to bing, and I did get a little teasing for it. It just goes to show that you can set your default search engine in Chrome to your choice of search engine – Google, Yahoo, bing, Dogpile, Metacrawler, or {insert your favorite search engine I didn’t list here}.)

Google Calendar

After my talks, Bill Cohen-Kiraly talked to us about Google Calendar. He walked us through the example of setting up a calendar for the Solon band and orchestra practices. He had one calendar for each group, and he showed us how to embed a calendar on our own sites with multiple calendars showing on one calendar. He showed how simple it was to add an appointment to the calendar and how it immediately shows up on the site.

I love Google Calendar! I use Google Calendar for Cleveland Tech Events and even have a calendar for my own personal tracking. My husband and I share the personal calendar, making it easier for him to see when I have presentations and trips scheduled and making it easier for us to make plans with friends and family by checking one calendar rather than having to carry around a paper calendar or maintaining individual calendars. And yes, for those who are curious, I am using Joomla extensions that tie to the Google Calendar for my “Upcoming Events” on Cleveland Tech Events. If you have a Joomla site and need help adding a Google calendar to it, I can help with that!

Google Maps

Finally, Stuart ended the meeting by covering Google Maps. He showed us how to use their Link feature to embed the maps on our sites. Then, he showed us how he customized the maps for Notre Dame College.

For those who are interested, there is a Google Maps mobile app available, if you want to access their maps from your mobile device.

Code Playground

The last thing Stuart showed us was the Code Playground. If you want to work with any of the Google APIs, this is the interactive area to see how it works and tweak the code to your liking.

Conclusion

Being International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we told our hecklers at the beginning that if they heckled, they’d have to walk the plank at the end. Oddly enough, no one had to walk the plank. However, there were some questions and feedback. I really enjoyed meeting them, and I look forward to attending their upcoming meetings.

The upcoming meetings for the Web Development SIG include:

  • October: Color Theory
  • November: Accessibility
  • December: Web Analytics
  • January: Google Chronicles

For more details on the Web Dev SIG, check out their website at: http://www.websigcleveland.org/.

Blogger Labels SUX – Looking for Recommendations

As many of you know, I currently use Blogger with ASP.NET master pages for this site. It was great in my early days, but I’ve blogged a lot since my first post, and it takes awhile for me to upload changes. One of the downfalls to using Blogger is that it republishes ALL label pages whenever I update a post or add a new post. And with this blog growing, I realize that a blog setup like this for a blogger like me would lead to a special appearance in my Sarah on User eXperience (SUX) series.

Of course, that’s what I get for using a blog engine that renders the posts as individual files and doesn’t render posts from a database. Being the developer that I am, I am well aware of my trade-offs, and I think I’ve finally outgrown this setup.

I am a huge fan of WordPress, as that’s what I use on my personal blog site and a few other sites that I run. However, I don’t have that option for this blog. I want to stay on my Windows-based host for my Windows-based samples. So… what do you recommend for .NET-based blog engines? Are there any out there that have basic blogging features (add/edit posts, maintain RSS feeds, accept comments, layouts/themes) that are fairly easy to set up?

Zune 4.0 + Audiobooks = SUX

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I hate writing disclaimers, but I need to make sure that you understand that these are my personal experiences and my personal thoughts. My employer is not responsible for my posts. Also for the record, I am active in the Microsoft community, and this isn’t meant to be an anti-Microsoft post. This is a renewal of my previous call to action for them.

Back in February, I had mentioned that there was this horrible user experience when it came to using audiobooks with the Zune. Today, Zune 4.0 came out, and we still have 0 support within the Zune desktop client for audiobooks.

As an ordinary user, I cringe at the current user experience. If I want to stay honest and delete expired audiobooks from my Zune, I need to follow the non-intuitive process that’s outlined in this post. Of course, there’s also Zune Explorer Enabler, that makes the Zune visible like a hard drive in Windows Explorer. That would be 100x simpler and easier to describe to a non-technical user, like my mom.

In the Zune 3.0 release, the device was able to support OverDrive audiobooks. My local libraries have digital collections, and thanks to my library card, it doesn’t cost me anything (other than time and bandwidth) to download audiobooks. I love that I can go to their sites, check out books, transfer them to my Zune, and go. But I don’t like that the Zune lets you transfer audiobooks to it, even has its own section for audiobooks on the device menu, but doesn’t have a way to manage that section from the desktop client. Even if you could delete the audiobook parts from the device itself, it’d pretty much be guaranteed to be better than the current process. If you can see videos, pictures, and songs in the Zune desktop software, I would think that you could see the audiobooks just as easily. But there I go thinking logically… it’s the developer in me.

Add to it that I’m a big fan of docking windows in Windows 7, and the Zune software still does not dock. That makes me pretty cranky.

Now there are some things that I do like. For example, now I can see how many credits I have left of my 10 credits from my Zune pass. When I hover over the credits, I see when they expire. That’s nice.

I can “pin” music to make it easier to find them. But for those of you who know me, “pinning” things can get chaotic and disastrous. It reminds me of pinning applications to the taskbar in Windows.

Now there’s this feature called “Smart DJ”. I’m not too sure what it does – other than analyzing your song collection and possibly playing songs I might like based on the 5 artists that I selected. I really can’t talk about this feature for a few days. Apparently it’s going to take 80.5 hours to install. Please tell me this is another Windows estimation “feature” and isn’t for real.

Oh wait… in the process of writing this post, the time went up to 152 hours and down as low as 61 hours. I’m thinking it might be more like this.

At least the Zune software is still operational while Smart DJ is installing.

And this mini player is cute, but it isn’t the same as what I want to do when I want to dock the window in Windows 7.

Overall, I see a lot of “shiny” features, a lot of “fun”, and some “cute”. But what I’m not seeing is practical functional improvements. The desktop software can somewhat manage the device, but it’s sad that it doesn’t have full capabilities to manage the device. Overall, I’m unimpressed by today’s update. Now maybe the functionality is there for the Zune HD – I wouldn’t know as I’m waiting to see reviews and handle one physically before purchasing one. But for us regular Zune users, I’m not seeing anything in this patch that makes it worthwhile (unless you like “shiny” and “pretty” effects, in which case check it out).

So once again, the Zune software is the star of my Sarah on User eXperience (SUX) series. Here’s hoping that one day it may be able to fully manage the device. And when the day comes where it supports audiobooks, I’ll hopefully be able to sing its praises. For now, I’ll continue to use the convoluted process of deleting parts through OverDrive Media Console and stay honest with my audiobooks on the Zune. But all that work just to stay honest… yeesh!

(And as I post this, I’m down to 36 hours on my SmartDJ install. Mind you, I wrote this post over an hour or so.)