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"The only frontiers are in your mind"
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Get Blogged by JoKi

Jochen Kirstaetter (2014)

The only frontiers are in your mind, welcome to my blog sphere. Your host at is Jochen Kirstätter aka JoKi.

Dive into the weird world of a professional Software Craftsman and follow his daily victories and struggles with modern technology at IOS Indian Ocean Software Ltd. Although living on a tropical island, I'm a business owner and entrepreneur in different industry sectors. Mainly operating in the development of tailor-made software solutions since more than 15 years, I also venture into the world of beauty and body care. You can either meet me at the weekly Code & Coffee meetups of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community or reach me on Twitter @JKirstaetter

This blog is also about Flic en Flac and the beautiful island of Mauritius, my home.

Sincerely, JoKi



Virtual Launch of Visual Studio 2013 Dubai
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Community 20 November 2013 - 

These recent days are packed with a series of great events. Not only that the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC) gets more momentum, it's also the situation that there are quite a number of product launches and version releases. Already last week, the official launch of Visual Studio 2013 happened but quite frankly I couldn't follow the online show as I had a jump start on Microsoft Virtual Academy to attend. And thanks to Technical Evangelist Arnaud Meslier I had an invitation to participate in the virtual launch event at the offices of Microsoft Indian Ocean Islands and French Pacific, Port Louis.

Luckily, morning traffic down to Port Louis wasn't that cramped as usual - well, I guess that might be related that more and more companies are moving their offices into other areas of the island and the capital is starting to 'die'. But don't let us complain about those circumstances. Finding the Microsoft office on the 7th floor of the Dias Pier Building was straight forward, even though it seems that they don't want to be found. Of course, the premises are a huge difference compared to the campuses at Microsoft Germany in Munich or Microsoft HQ in Redmond. Actually, it is more likely to one of those regional offices like in Neuss.

Introducing the MSCC

Some Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) and a few other guests were already present and the team was still busy with some preparations for the virtual event, like setting up audio and projector, etc. Nothing to worry about there was still plenty of time, as the event was scheduled for 9:30 hrs respectively 10:00 hrs. More attendees came and the available seats in our conference room were quickly filled. Unfortunately, when the pre-show of the launch event started, there were still some technical issues... but we knew how to use the time efficiently:

"Overcoming some technical issues here and got the opportunity to speak quickly about #mscc. Thanks to @arnaudmeslier"

Introducing the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community in front of the attendees of the Virtual Launch event of Visual Studio 2013
Introducing the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community in front of the attendees of the Virtual Launch event of Visual Studio 2013

So instead of everyone waiting Arnaud asked me to give a brief introduction about the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community. Thanks for that! Talking about the MSCC provided some interesting follow-up conversations during the breaks later that day. As we started to get in touch with some local IT companies already, it was very positive to have this opportunity. And thanks to a number of students from the Middlesex University, Mauritius we will also try to arrange an appointment with their Dean during the next couple of weeks.

Visual Studio One

As modern software development of applications and apps is moving more and more to cloud-based environments it only seems to be a logical consequence to offer an integrated development environment in the browser, too. Once again, I got the impression that Telerik Icenium might have been a good inspiration for Visual Studio One (VSO) but eventually I might be wrong on that one. Who knows... ;-)

Visual Studio 2013 - Connect Create Transform
Visual Studio 2013 - Connect Create Transform - #VS2013Dubai

Visual Studio One is the successor product to Team Foundation Services, and the online service is (currently) offered for free for teams up to 5 people. This might change in the future but there are no further announcements or any additional information available at the moment. Subscribers of MSDN packages get a surplus on Visual Studio One, and it is also possible to get some benefits as Microsoft Partner.

"There will be updates every 3 weeks" -- Microsoft Visual Studio One

I love this bold statement, and I'm really looking forward to see whether the sprints of the development team(s) behind Visual Studio One are going to able to stick to their word. Actually, it would be pretty impressive to see that finally Microsoft follows some lean practices "Deploy early, deploy often".

Cross platform mobile development

Oh man, this already gave me a big big smile on the face last week, but once again it was great fun to have this announcement while watching others' faces in the conference room. Microsoft and Xamarin collaborate - read: Microsoft and Xamarin Partner Globally to Help You Build Great Apps - on the support of real cross platform software development for mobiles and smartphones. Seeing the fact that I'm using Xamarin already since last year it's just great to be on the right track. Actually, we spoke about that topic during the last Saturday meetup of the MSCC.

Impressions of other attendees at the Virtual Launch of Visual Studio 2013 Dubai
Impressions of other attendees at the Virtual Launch of Visual Studio 2013 Dubai - Microsoft Indian Ocean Islands

Build and Release Process

Now, that everything is concentrating on cloud-based services and processes it just a natural consequence that Microsoft was also introducing the Release Process which enables you to commit your local source code changes to your version control system - either on TFS or Git technology -, to trigger an automated build process and to deploy to your system infrastructure with a single mouse click operation in Visual Studio 2013.

Continuous Integration in a very fine execution. Of course, being a Clean Code Developer there are no real surprises here but it's refreshing to see the high level of integration between the various products in the portfolio of Microsoft. Application Life-cycle got a lot better with VS 2013.

Code Editor Enhancements

Hot-keys and keyboard navigation are obviously the new fashion trend in Visual Studio 2013. Finally, the IDE got some highly appreciated hot-keys and short-cuts in terms of developer's productivity. Those new improvements are surely interesting for pure VS users but quite frankly I tweeted about that already:

"Surprisingly, some of the editor enhancements in Visual Studio 2013 are old fellows when using @TelerikJust JustCode. #vs2013dubai"

Anyway, it's great to see those enhancements as part of the product now, and thanks to partners like Telerik and others there will be more improvements in future versions.

Resume of the day

Awesome!

Using the time during the breaks for some networking... Community, Community, Community!
Using the time during the breaks for some networking... Community, Community, Community! - Source: Pawan

Despite the outstanding new products, the high level of integration between Visual Studio, Azure and online automated build systems, the number of long-awaited improvements to the code editor and so on, I really enjoyed the conversations with other attendees during the coffee and lunch breaks. Having a chat with guys from Microsoft, the geeks from the Microsoft Student Partners, some students of the Middlesex University, and other IT people from MCB, Infomil, and more was really awesome. Once again Thank You, Arnaud!

 
MSCC: Clean Code Development & Your workspace
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Community 18 November 2013 - 

Logo of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship CommunityLast weekend the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC) had been organising their latest monthly meetup. Once again, we met at the Ebene Accelerator, Orange Tower, Ebene.

"Thank You to Ebene Accelerator for offering us the use of their conference rooms. It's really helpful and we like to be here."

In this article I would like to take the chance to quickly summarize the topics we covered and the ideas we worked out for upcoming meetings. And it was also pleasant to welcome more 'first-timers' this month.

Reactions from other craftsmen

Funnily, it seems that there is kind of gentleman's agreement active at the moment which says that this month's community activities should be blogged in French language. Frankly speaking I leave that exercise to my native craftsmen. It would be more than horrible writing this entry in French language - both, for me to write and for you to read. ;-)

"Comme cela faisait parti des topiques d’aujourd’hui on s’est partagé les photos de nos desks (bureau). On a ainsi eu une longue discussion sur les bonnes pratiques de “Clean Desk Policy” … Quand à moi je me suis défendu pourquoi j’aime mon “messy desk” :)" --  Ish on MSCC – L’interopérabilité :)

Looking forward to add more links as soon as they'll be available online...

Latest MSCC updates

Since founding this community back in May 2013 it has been a great journey so far. Our weekly and of course our monthly meetups have been great fun and serious exchange of experience. This month we are going to pass the 6-month mark... And yes it's on the one hand quite remarkable to see what has been achieved during this short period and on the other hand I'm very happy to say that the #MSCC is hopefully not following all those unfortunate user groups that have been alive in Mauritius. Touching wood, the #MSCC is currently the most active IT community and we are working towards more members on our official website over at Meetup.com, and we are looking forward to encourage others to either re-animate their activities or to join us willingly.

Based on an initiative of Yann, we started to organise small meetings with local IT companies in order to create more awareness about the MSCC in general but also to see whether there might be common interest and synergy effects. Up till now, we already had a conversation with representatives of Ceridian and Talents. Both companies seem to like our concept, ideas and mid-term plans about enforcing the IT landscape in Mauritius. Very positive for us is also that they both generously offered their facilities and eventually guest sessions for next meetups.

It would be awesome to have the ability to introduce our community to more software developers, system administrators or DevOps during the next couple of month. Actually, we are very ambitious to reach 100+ craftsmen before the end of 2013. Dear reader, did you already join the MSCC? No, it's for free and anyone is welcome on our official site. Thanks!

A typical setup and relaxed environment during our monthly MSCC meetups
Typical setup: Relaxed and non-formal environment during our monthly MSCC meetups.

Clean Code Developer

Although announced as topic for this month, we simply skipped it. And I think it was completely okay to do so. Anyway, it's only post-poned and it's going to be a more practical session next time. As we already spoke about Red and Orange Grades, I would like to provide a number of source code snippets that we can analyse, discuss and refactor together. So, hold the line... we'll back in a moment.

Your workspace (desk, OS, apps, tools, etc)

Working in IT usually means that you are sitting most of your time in front of your work desk. I mean, that's your profession day in, day out - something between 6 and 12 hours per day, 5 or even 6 days week, and so on. Having a proper working environment is crucial for your productivity and efficiency after all.

"If you're a developer, you need to spend money on a great computer, an awesome monitor, a fantastic chair and a good bed" -- Scott Hanselman

In those matters, I would like to refer to the 4 B's - Brain, Bytes, Back, Buns - The Programmer's Priorities - written by Scott Hanselman two years back, as well as a more recent article here on this blog: Essentials for Software Developer or any computer job.

Due to my work as a IT consultant and working with a number of IT companies here in Mauritius, I clearly tell that the ergonomically aspects of a proper work environment are non-existent. Software developers, database administrators, system integrators, you name it are quite commonly sitting on the cheapest piece of furniture a company might be able to purchase here on the island. The major problem in most cases is the number of employees or ,frankly speaking, the lack of budget in order to provide comfort for the powerhouse workers. And same usually applies to the hardware equipment given to employees. Usually, just the cheapest stuff available and absolutely no chance for anyone to ask for replacement. Unfortunately, in some cases I also discovered that a developer brought her own hardware, like a high-quality keyboard and high-resolution optical mouse from home to her office work desk.

Well, prior to the meetup I already requested our craftsmen to submit their pictures and we talked about bits and pieces. One really positive effect that we discovered is clearly that having at least two monitors at your workspace automatically increases ones productivity. No need to switch between apps via hot-keys or fiddling around with resizing and positioning of application windows. And, adding a second monitor is absolutely affordable for anyone, even here in Mauritius. I pulled my portable USB monitor from the laptop bag and passed it around. The overall reaction was very positive and some were even impressed by the light-weight of the screen. Eventually, I should get in touch VEngineers about commission :)

Following an incomplete set of work desks we had a look at and talked about.


Work space of Yann


Work space of Nirvan


Work space of Nadim


My work space

More pictures of our craftsmen's workspaces and in general of our recent meetup are available in the photo gallery. Most interestingly, there is a repetitive pattern in the hardware: multiple screens, high quality peripherals and head-phones or head-set.

Oh, and don't worry about hardware limitations... Using a software KVM like Synergy gives you the ability to share and use one set of peripherals across multiple machines independent of the operating system you're using. So, grab the old rusty PC or your previous laptop from the shelf and hook them up.

Events

What are the upcoming events here in Mauritius? So far, we have the following ones (incomplete list as usual) in chronological order:

Hopefully, there will be more announcements during the next couple of weeks and months. One of the hottest candidates that I would like to have here in Mauritius would be Microsoft BootCamp and Windows 8.1 and/or Windows Phone 8 development.

Networking and job/project opportunities

 Having a group of like-minded people with a sense of passion and proud in their work is always a good igniter for interesting conversation. And so this time again, we spoke about the importance of knowing multiple programming languages. The ones that you might have learned during your years at the university, like C++ or Java, aren't necessarily the ones you are going to earn your money and fame with. Dan had some good arguments that even though he used to learn C/C++ in his youth, he is mainly working in Ruby (on Rails) and other web-related technologies. On my side, I have to say that I 'outed' myself - even so in a funny way (carefully: written in German language). I mentioned that it is pretty interesting to observe the trends during the last 2-3 years on JavaScript. Before I started to develop data-driven desktop applications in Visual FoxPro, I used to hack down dynamic web sites in HTML 3.x, Perl, mSQL/MySQL and JavaScript. Some MSCC youngsters seem to be surprised about the fact that JavaScript is almost 20 years old - A Short History of JavaScript. And I used to code back in those early days...

Anyway, the important information is: You have to know more than 2 or even more than 3 programming languages nowadays. And JavaScript should be part of that.

My resume of the day

Digging in the past... Oh yes, it was great fun to take a deep dive into Web development during the last millennium. For one of our future meetups, I really looking forward to have someone talking about either jQuery, AngularJS, node.js, or any other JavaScript library that is commonly used in modern web and app development. Volunteers are highly welcome...

 
Representing Mauritius in the 2013 Bench Games
General 29 October 2013 - 

benchgames logoOnly by chance I came across an interesting option for professionals and enthusiasts in IT, and quite honestly I can't even remember where I caught attention of Brainbench and their 2013 Bench Games event. But having access to 600+ free exams in a friendly international intellectual competition doesn't happen to be available every day. So, it was actually a no-brainer to sign up and browse through the various categories.

Most interestingly, Brainbench is not only IT-related. They offer a vast variety of fields in their Test Center, like Languages and Communication, Office Skills, Management, Aptitude, etc., and it can be a little bit messy about how things are organised. Anyway, while browsing through their test offers I added a couple of exams to 'My Plan' which I would give a shot afterwards.

Self-assessments

Actually, I took the tests based on two major aspects: 'Fun Factor' and 'How good would I be in general'...

Usually, you have to pay for any kind of exams and given this unique chance by Brainbench to simply train this kind of tests was already worth the time. Frankly speaking, the tests are very close to the ones you would be asked to do at Prometric or Pearson Vue, ie. Microsoft exams, etc. Go through a set of multiple choice questions in a given time frame. Most of the tests I did during the Bench Games were based on 40 questions, each with a maximum of 3 minutes to answer. Ergo, one test in maximum 2 hours - that sounds feasible, doesn't it?

The Measure of Achievement

While the 2013 Bench Games are considered a worldwide friendly competition of knowledge I was really eager to get other Mauritians attracted. Using various social media networks and community activities it all looked quite well at the beginning. Mauritius was listed on rank #19 of Most Certified Citizens and rank #10 of Most Master Level Certified Nation - not bad, not bad...

Until... the next update of the Bench Games Leaderboard. The downwards trend seemed to be unstoppable and I couldn't understand why my results didn't show up on the Individual Leader Board. First of all, I passed exams that were not even listed and second, I had better results on some exams listed. After some further information from the organiser it turned out that my test transcript wasn't available to the public. Only then results are considered and counted in the competition. During that time, I actually managed to hold 3 test results on the Individuals...

Other participants were merciless, eh, more successful than me, produced better test results than I did. But still I managed to stay on the final score board:

2013 Bench Games - Individual Leader Board
An 'exotic' combination of exam, test result, country and person itself

Representing Mauritius and the Visual FoxPro community in that fun event.

And although I mainly develop in Visual FoxPro 9.0 SP2 and C# using .NET Framework from 2.0 to 4.5 since a couple of years I still managed to pass on Master Level. Hm, actually my Microsoft Certified Programmer (MCP) exams are dated back in June 2004 - more than 9 years ago...

Look who got lucky...

As described above I did a couple of exams as time allowed and without any preparations, but still I received the following mail notification:

"Thank you for recently participating in our Bench Games event.  We wanted to inform you that you obtained a top score on our test(s) during this event, and as a result, will receive a free annual Brainbench subscription.  Your annual subscription will give you access to all our tests just like Bench Games, but for an entire year plus additional benefits!" -- Leader Board Notification from Brainbench

Even fun activities get rewarded sometimes. Thanks to @Brainbench_com for the free annual subscription based on my passed 2013 Bench Games Master Level exam.

It would be interesting to know about the total figures, especially to see how many citizens of Mauritius took part in this year's Bench Games. Anyway, I'm looking forward to be able to participate in other challenges like this in the future.

 
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