Microsoft in Open Source

I know that the title sounds deceiving, especially to those who’ve been watching the open source realm over the past couple decades.  However, Microsoft has been dabbling with open source for awhile, and they even have a website that talks about it.  Let’s look into this a bit more.

Background

I’ve had my eye on the open source world for at least the past decade.  While my roots may be in Microsoft technologies, my first presentations at user groups and conferences were on open source projects and programming in Linux.  Even when I keynoted at Software Freedom Day – Cleveland 2011 – talking about “Keeping an Open Mind About Open Source”, I made sure to mention that yes, Microsoft is included in the list of those involved with open source.  It was nice to be able to mention their company name and get more intrigue than groans.

Microsoft’s Involvement in Open Source in Terms of Development

One myth people have believed is that developers who use Microsoft technologies don’t understand open source.  However, that myth is just that – a myth.  The truth is, developers of all types, including those who use Microsoft technologies, are interested in the open source movement.  Whether they’re contributing to their own projects or encouraging developers to contribute to projects or create their own open source projects, Microsoft has provided developers with a home for open source projects over at CodePlex.

In addition to providing a place to host these open source products, they have encouraged developers to help with the tooling in Visual Studio.  One package management system that’s used commonly in the Microsoft development realm is NuGet, the open source developer focused package management system.  This tool allows those developing with Microsoft’s Visual Studio to easily add 3rd party open source libraries to their applications.

We have a place to host open source packages and tools to give us access to open source libraries.  Microsoft is also known for promoting open source packages and pro-open source solutions in their Web App Gallery, which can be accessed on desktops via Web Platform Installer and can be installed on webhost’s servers for those webhosts that support the Microsoft Web App Gallery. You can even play with these packages and customize them on your own, even if you don’t have Visual Studio.  Microsoft’s WebMatrix tool ties into the Web App Gallery as well and makes it easy to work with applications found in the Web App Gallery.

Microsoft’s Open Source Initiative

Recently, my friend Marques – also known as @tromboneforhire on Twitter – tweeted about stumbling upon the Microsoft Openness site.  I had never ever heard about it up until that point, but I figured I’d poke around the site to see what their site was about.

Microsoft is all about building bridges across platforms.  The Openness site covers how Microsoft is about building these bridges, looking at how openness influences Microsoft and its audience.  It contains stories of Microsoft paired with common open source technologies and packages – including PHP and Drupal.  There’s also a list of resources on openness and interoperability – including standards, Microsoft projects, and other helpful links.  You can also get your short updates from them as @OpenAtMicrosoft on Twitter.

In addition to the Openness site, there’s the Port25 blog that covers communications from the open source community at Microsoft.  Here you can find where Microsoft technologies meet the open source community.  Whether it’s Microsoft appearing at OSCON or something like PhoneGap on Windows Phone being complete, you’ll find all sorts of details on Microsoft’s relations in open source.  As they put it on their site:

Port 25 is about having a healthy conversation with customers and the industry to talk openly and honestly about their biggest interoperability challenges, whether it is on UNIX, Linux, Windows, or other open source packages.

We believe that healthy and productive discussion only occurs when the parties listen and respond to each other, and this is the foundation on which Port 25 is built.

Our goal is to be accessible, approachable and smart, which means our door is always open, that no comment goes unread, that ideas (common sense required) can be openly discussed, and that while change takes time, we’re committed.

Conclusion

In “Keeping an Open Mind About Open Source”, I challenged my audience to keep their mind open for the rest of the conference, as they may have been surprised with what was covered in the conference.  As for now, I challenge you, whoever you may be, to get past the myth that Microsoft isn’t interested in open source.  It’s a myth, and the reality is that Microsoft is interested and has taken big strides over the years to show how they’re interested and want to be involved in the open source realm.

Playing the Trello…

While I’m very musically inclined, Trello is not related to a trumpet combined with a cello, despite what its name suggests.

One of my clients started using this tool to help track features on our current project and steps we need to take for those features. While using it for this client, I’ve found multiple uses for it, so I figured I may as well blog about the handy online tool known as Trello.

What I Like About Trello

What’s nice about using Trello to track things like this is that you can assign points to cards and use browser plugins – such as Trello Scrum for Google Chrome – to help get lane totals, which are helpful if you need to calculate velocity or other metrics.

Cards on the board can have all sorts of features, including:

  • Labels – used however you may want to use them. Be it using labels to identify larger features, priorities, risk levels, or some other piece of data. Cards can have multiple labels.
  • Assignments – used to see who’s assigned to work on the card. Multiple people can be assigned to a card.
  • Checklists – used for lists related to the card. Great for keeping track of steps and resources to complete a card.
  • Attachments – good for attaching files related to the card. This is good especially if, for example, you have a gherkin file associated with the feature.
  • Vote – good if you have a team of people looking at features and wanting to vote on which features get in a release, for example.

Trello is also a project that is continuously maintained. Not only do they continue to work on Trello, but they use Trello to manage Trello development – check out the Trello Development board.

How I Use Trello – For Business

In addition to using Trello to track the various features and who’s working on each of them for our project with one of my clients, I’ve also decided to use it for my business overall. My Trello boards for my business – Cleveland Tech Consulting, LLC – help me to get a better view of the picture overall. I have a board that I call “Business Pipeline”. This is where I keep track of my various contracts with my clients, as well as potential job leads. I have another board that I use to keep track of some of the apps that I’d like to work on if I had more time. This helps me to at least get my ideas down somewhere where I can revisit them.

On my “Business Pipeline” board, I have 4 columns:

  • To Do – tasks I need to do, people to follow up with
  • Scheduled – things I’ve scheduled to get taken care of
  • In Progress – what I’m currently working on
  • Done
  • On Hold – tasks waiting on another person or waiting for me to have more time to address

On my apps idea board, I use the default 3 columns:

  • To Do
  • Doing
  • Done

Overall, these boards help me see the big picture of the flow of my business.

How I Use Trello – For Personal Projects

This whole “creating cards, putting them in columns, using checklists” mentality is the story of my life. I tend to break big projects into smaller ones to make them more manageable. I make lists of how to accomplish tasks, to help keep me on task. So using Trello on personal projects just made sense to me. Add to it that I have a very big… project… in my personal life that I really couldn’t see a big picture of… and Trello to the rescue! {cue superhero music}

So my very big “project” in my personal life is preparing for the arrival of my son, who is due April 4th. My husband and I are going to become parents for the first time, and we’ve got a lot of tasks to tackle before Logan’s arrival. I didn’t realize just how much we had to do, but creating a “Baby Planning” board on Trello has helped both of us realize that there’s a lot to do. Here’s what one of our cards looks like:

Paint Colors Card in Trello

Whether we need to register for something, purchase something, or preparing something in the house, it’s all getting added to the Trello board. So far, we’ve found this helpful – be it tracking pediatrician recommendations, writing down specific color information for the nursery, or even storing links of nurseries that I like for inspiration.

Conclusion

I’ve found Trello to work well for what I need. I like a simple way of organizing my features and tasks, be it software development/architecture or otherwise. Trello is my choice, and I’d recommend others to try it out and see if it may meet your needs as well.

There’s an App for That!

The first of the posts to be making their circle this year is posting what apps they recommend on their phones. My friends Jeff Blankenburg and Brian Jackett made posts, and I figured I’d join in on this.

My Phone

I have a Samsung Focus on AT&T with the Mango update. Hard to believe, I’ve had my phone for over a year now. Very pleased with the Windows Phone interface, I’ve added many apps to my phone since getting it.

Social Media Apps

  • 4th & Mayor – It took me awhile to get into the whole Foursquare check-ins trend. But after devLink this summer, I’ve checked into a few places – currently at 184 check-ins, 4 mayorships, 21 badges, 12 tips, and 42 friends. My top places include places where I was contracted to work and where the user groups meet. In the past 6 months, my top categories include airports, food & drink shops, and offices. All of these statistics are easily attainable in 4th & Mayor! Once again, Jeff Wilcox has put out an awesome app.
  • Birdsong – While talking with my friend Chris Woodruff while we were in Seattle last year, I asked him if he could recommend any apps for juggling multiple Twitter accounts. Birdsong is great for that! Whether I’m Tweeting as @sadukie, @clevtechevents, or one of my various conference accounts, I have one app that allows me to switch between accounts and tweet from there. While I don’t use it often when I have my laptop on hand, I do find it helpful if I need to post a picture to Twitter while I’m on the road.

Productivity Apps

  • Amazon Mobile – Definitely handy when you’re buying items from a brick and mortar store and really wondering if you should spend that amount on something that you could wait a few days for. Being an Amazon Prime person and having free 2-day shipping on orders, this is a must-have for me.
  • Diagnosis – Whether you’re trying to diagnose battery usage and signal problems or wanting to tether out on your phone, this is a must-have for Samsung Focus users. You can find more on the Samsung Focus Diagnosis app on the XDA-Developers site.
  • GoVoice – If you have a Google Voice account, you can check your Google Voice texts and voicemails on your Windows Phone with the GoVoice app. This has been helpful in deciphering what some of my transcribed voice mails really were.
  • Last.fm – Listen to the streaming music over last.fm right on your phone with this app!  When I’m not listening to last.fm on my XBOX, I may be listening to it on my phone.  It’s nice to have this option in addition to any other options I’d have in whichever car I’m driving.
  • Mileage Log – Being in business for myself, I have a new world of tax write-offs, including mileage to places.  Also, with getting a new car last July, I was curious to see how its mileage would be throughout the year.  This app allows me to track my mileage (including the price) so that I can see the mpg trends in my car.
  • Stopwatch – Good for timing laps and as a general timer.
  • Translator – Right now, the supported languages include English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.  I like having this on hand when I am dealing with an international audience and need to get words or sentences translated.
  • Unit Converter – I’m known to run searches such as “150 lb to stone” or “47 degrees F to C” and then getting the conversion from a search engine.  However, having Unit Converter on my phone means that I have these conversion abilities right at my fingertips when I’m on the go.  Whether I’m looking at length, temperature, speed, time, volume, angle, weight, or area, this app has been very helpful in getting me the conversions I need when I need them.
  • WordPress – If you have 1 or even more than 1 WordPress website, this Windows Phone app is great for managing your WordPress sites.  One thing to note, XML-RPC publishing needs to be enabled on self-hosted  WordPress blogs before you can publish from the app. WordPress.com-hosted apps have this enabled by default.
  • World Clock – If you have business clients (or in my case, family) throughout the world, this app can help you keep track of what time it is in other parts of the world.  For me, having family in London, Sydney, and Hong Kong, I need to have something like the World Clock app to help keep their times straight.

Misc Apps

  • Across the Room – Recommended to me by Jeff, I’ve found this helpful whether it’s delivering a message to friends in the same talk as me at a conference or sending a message to my husband when he’s sitting away from me in our front room. Of course, he steals my phone so that he too can play with this app. This is just a fun way to deliver a message, as the name suggests, across the room.
  • Coin Flipper – When you live in a house of indecision like I do, it helps to have a coin flipper for making decisions, especially if you don’t like carrying coins around.
  • Fandango – Whether it’s a girls’ night out to Sex and the City 2, a family trip to The Muppets, or a date night to the latest James Bond movie, I like having movie times and being able to purchase movie tickets right at my fingertips. I can see what’s now playing, what’s coming soon, and even what’s showing at nearby theaters – including showtimes for the current day!
  • FML – If you’re having a bad day and need something to make you laugh, just know that other people are having it as bad or worse. This app is great, showing the data from fmylife.com.
  • Geocaching – After a few of my college friends talked me into geocaching, I’ve found it to be a good excuse to get out of the house and a great way to explore cities. Take scavenger hunts to the next level with this GPS scavenger hunt-like activity. Whether I’m on my own or out with friends, I’ve always enjoyed figuring out where the cache is hidden.  This is tied into the geocaching.com database.
  • IMDb – Pulling data from the IMDB.com website, this app is great when you need to wow your friends with a quote from a movie or satisfy your curiosity of who was in the original Ocean’s 11.
  • Periodic Table – Have I ever mentioned that some of my friends are super smart when it comes to science?  If they ever get to talking about elementary topics, I’ve got a periodic table of elements on my phone to remind me how that was structured.
  • Portal Sounds – I’m a fan of the Portal games, and I’ve found that having the sounds at my fingertips can be a great distracting tool.  There have been times where my little nephew (who’ll be 2 in the spring) has started getting fussy, and I’ve played some of the Portal sounds which have caught his attention and got him to settle down.
  • Wikipedia – This app needs to words, other than it takes the data from the Wikipedia.com site.

Games

  • Angry Birds – Shooting birds to attack pigs… this game is an addicting puzzle game.
  • Bejeweled™ LIVE – I have to admit that I have a weak spot for PopCap games. The Bejeweled series was the first of their games that roped me in. I love this gem-matching game, whether I’m at the doctor’s office or stuck on a long ride.
  • Color Sprouts – a coloring book app, good for keeping kids distracted
  • Doodle Jump – a fun little game that makes great use of the accelerometer!
  • Fireworks – nice little app to create a distraction for little ones
  • Fruit Ninja – Be it on my Windows Phone or on Kinect, I have to admit that I am a fruit-slashing addict. On the phone, your fingers are what does the slashing. Slice and dice the fruit, and watch out for the bombs! This game is great stress relief!
  • Parachute Panic – Such a catchy theme song! It’s fun trying to land parachuting guys on boats while working around obstacles.
  • PvZ – I’ve got this on my PC and was super thrilled when I saw it was coming out for Windows Phone. I have this on my phone now as well, and I made it a point to unlock the Whack-a-Zombie mini game for yet another form of stress relief!
  • Swipy Man – Another game that makes physics fun, trying to land a stick figure guy on a platform.
  • Wordament – I’m a words-game junkie. Banagrams, Scrabble, Boggle, and Balderdash are just some of the word games I like playing in person. Wordament is a good Boggle-like game.
  • Toy Xylophone – You never know when you need to distract a kid or play as an accompaniment at Music Monday. Having a toy xylophone on the phone is just a silly thing to have on hand.

Conclusion

Got any apps on your phone that you’d like to recommend to others? Blog about it and post a link to your blog post here in the comments! I’d love to see how others are using their phones and what apps they find useful!

Others’ recommendations so far: