Site Upgrade

My site was down for much of today as I finally took the plunge and rebuilt my image from ground up. This was something I had considered doing for some time now. The old site had been through a couple of ubuntu upgrades and was chugging along, but I always thought it would be good to do a fresh install. However I never really wanted to dump the time into it. Then I saw this article: https://www.anandtech.com/show/14284/amazon-offers-another-amd-epyc-powered-instance-t3a

I have been interested in AMD’s latest processors as they seem to be killing it with their Ryzen line. I checked the pricing and saw that the price for running my site was about half of the cost of what I was paying for my old t2 instance. Additionally at the same price level I was getting more CPU cores with the new instances. I hadn’t even realized that Amazon had rolled out their regular T3s or these new T3a instances. I figured it would be an easy switch, stop my instance, change the instance type and start up the new instance.

I attempted that with no luck. It seems that since I setup my site Amazon had come out with a new Network card driver, which my Linux kernel didn’t have. I switched back to my T2, and decided I would start building my new image on the side. When I had time I would spin up my new image and start working on the Amazon setup. I was happy to see there is now IPv6 support available. All in all there was just lots of new stuff to play with. I finally reached the point yesterday where I decided to backup my site and finally go for it. I had hit a stopping point where I brought my nginx config over (which had all my SSL settings), but I didn’t have my DNS pointed to the new machine in order to pull down new certificates. Without the certificates nginx wouldn’t launch, and at the same time because of HSTS preloading I can’t test an unencrypted version of my site. I pointed to the new IP this morning in my DNS settings and then proceeded to start working on restoring the backup of my site while I waited for the old DNS cache entries to expire so that I would pull down my new certificates.

Right around that time I had to depart as we had mother’s day plans and thus the site needed to remain down. When I got back on tonight I finally finished restoring my backup of wordpress and we are back. Now that I am back up I realized that my SSL Labs score dropped so I have been tweaking my configuration to get back up to my high A+ score.

Future projects now will include figuring out IPv6 routing. I was able to assign an IPv6 address to my instance and VPC, but when I try to SSH to that address it seems to time out. When I get that working I would like to setup DNS to allow getting to my site solely with IPv6. Anyway that is all for now as I need to go to bed, but more updates coming soon hopefully.

Themes for 2019

I am late to the party. Normally I tried to take off until Epiphany before I return to work, but I needed to start working on the 2nd so I wasn’t able to get to this post until now. As is my tradition I set my themes for the year that I want to focus on. I find doing so helps me stay on track and make sure that I am growing and improving myself.

Theme 1 – Health

I am carrying this one over from last year but it is always a good one for every year. In my feasting for the holidays I put on a little weight so I am going to attempt to lose 20 pounds before Easter. I hadn’t decided what I would do at the start of the year, but on Epiphany I decided I would do intermittent fasting and cut back on beer (and try to eat fewer carbs when I am eating). So far I am down 9 pounds 2 weeks in, so I should be able to exceed my minimum by Easter since the fasting will continue until then.

In addition to the health benefits of losing weight, I also would like to look better. Later on this year I will be involved in pitching for a series A and I want to look my best in those meetings. Ideally I would like to be more active this year too. When I was testing the Apple Watch that Sofi had I must admit the gamification aspect of closing rings was getting my to walk more and when I was walking was pushing me to walk faster to keep the heart rate up and close the exercise circle. So maybe I will take the plunge this year on one. Though at this point if I do that I would probably hold out for the series 5 in the fall.

Theme 2 – Learning

I have a couple of things in this bucket for the year. First is the machine learning course that I mentioned a few weeks ago. I am just about finished with the week 2 work and I can already see the benefits. It is already kicking my brain into gear thinking about the problems that we are trying to solve at work. Additionally I feel like the base knowledge will enable me to ask the right questions and help keep the ball rolling on that part of our system.

The second area of learning is going to be focused on is reading. Traditionally this is something I really push myself on, but I have fallen away from it a bit in 2018 just with interrupted sleep due to the ages of my children. Now that I am past that stage 2019 is going to be refocusing on getting through a bunch of books. Currently I am reading Leaders Eat Last which was a Christmas gift from my boss. I want to get back into my old pattern where I would try to read 10% of a book a day so I can get through a book in 10 days

Theme 3 – Security

Given all the sites that are constantly in the news each year with getting data stolen, I have decided it is time to take my password security to the next level. Instead of hard passwords I memorize I have switched to using a password manager and generating really long and random passwords that I don’t know. This makes is possible now to have no repeated passwords anywhere and I have found that it has already simplified my life.

I am also considering going the hardware key route instead of just using an authenticator app for 2 factor passwords, but I haven’t yet decided if I want to do that.

Theme 4 – Public Speaking

I have never been very comfortable speaking in public. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very talkative after I get to know a person, but something about being on a stage with all that attention directed at me has always made me uncomfortable. That being said it is a skill that I need to develop to go where I want to go in my career. Beginning this month I will be speaking at our board meeting, and then with needing to fund raise later on it is time for me to conquer this.

Fortunately the timing couldn’t be better in that I was also invited to speak at a developer meetup this year. I can’t think of a better way to practice this skill than to be speaking to a friendly audience of developers discussing technical topics. As that is an area in which I always enjoy speaking. Over my holiday break I began work on a talk, but when I realized it was going to take too much time I pivoted over to the Machine Learning class first as that is a greater need for me. Once I finish that class I intend to focus my time on putting this talk together and then I will get myself on the Calendar as a speaker (hopefully by Q2).

Conclusion

Those are my areas of focus for the year. As always I will do the run down at the end of the year and see how they turned out, as well as what popped up that I didn’t predict for the year. May everyone have a happy and productive year.

Coursera Stanford Machine Learning Course

I just signed up to take the Stanford Machine Learning Course for free on Coursera. Anyone who wants to take the course with me is welcome to join me over here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/machine-learning. They are only accepting enrollments until January 12th I think it said so not much time left to sign up.

2018 Year End Review

Recap for 2018

As is my tradition it is time to review 2018 and see how my year unfolded. The first thing that I always do is review my themes for the year and see how many of them I hit.

In general 2018 was an interesting year. The year started out with me on vacation. When I was on vacation I realized that I would have to change jobs in 2018 and luckily it all worked out for the better. I can say making that move was one of the best decisions I have made in my career. The difference between the first half of 2018 and the last half was a study in extreme opposites on the career front. Probably the biggest takeaway from that whole situation is that company culture may be the most important thing when it comes to choosing a position.

Without further delay here is how I did for 2018:

Health

I didn’t drop as much weight as I had hoped to at the start of the year. I think I lost 20 pounds in the first quarter and kind of slacked off after that. There will be another push for that again this year as I always like to start Q1 as a quarter to fast since Q4 for me is a quarter to feast. I haven’t figured out what approach I Am going to take? In the past I have done the Primal Prescription, Slow Carb, and Intermittent Fasting / Time Restricted Feeding. I will consider what approach I am going to take over the upcoming days. I also did DNAFit this year so it would be good to try to incorporate their diet ideas for my specific genes in whatever I decide to do. I should also push for more regular activity, so maybe in the end I will need to break down and get an apple watch just to use the data to drive accountability for myself. Not sure yet I have been holding out for it to do more than it currently does before I take the plunge. I do like that the series 4 at least has a larger display.

I suspect 2019 will involve more public speaking for me based on how things are looking so I also want get healthier for that as it is nice to look good if you are on a stage or the center of attention.

More Blogging

This theme was an epic fail. As I check my posts not counting this post there were a paltry 13 blog posts this year. Barely an average of 1 per month (vs my goal of 52 in general). This one I don’t even mind missing this year because it was for a good reason. I had so much stuff to learn for my new job this was one of the easiest things to cut to get more time. As I have settled in I hope to do better this year, but in general if I am pushing for a sprint deadline this is an easy thing to cut so I can get more code across the line. Once we get our product to market I hope to be able to plan more reasonable sprints.

Learning

I nailed this theme. It has been a great year for learning. Instead of the learning being books I read it has been practical things. First I learned Go Lang and implemented a micro serviced base architecture in it. I am still doing a lot of learning in Go. I haven’t yet figured out really the ideal patterns yet. One thing that I miss from Spring is how opinionated the framework is. There is a remarkable amount of consistency in code when you have the strongly defined stereotypes like that. When you see Go on the internet it is all over the place. Sometimes it feels like node code, sometimes it feels like C code, but it never really feels like people are using the same consistent patterns. I have played around with sort of the controller / service / repository layers and not sure that is the correct idiom. I have played around with just general event handlers and middleware patterns. I think this year will still be me trying to figure out what is the best patterns to use for backend services.

On the business front there was also a lot of learning for me. For the first time in my career I built an agile process that our team uses, and got a brand new team that didn’t know each other at the start off to a very good working cadence. Our process has worked so well that other parts of the organization have adopted it as their baseline and started iterating on it to adapt it to their teams. I have also applied some of the things I learned from domain driven development to build a model that allows the business and the technology teams to communicate with the same language.

Architectural Changes

This was underway when I left my previous company. We managed to convert some of our apps to Java from Groovy. We were doing this on a piece by piece basis at first going after the easy parts. We were also doing some restructuring to address some performance problems in the architecture around the time of my departure. This I would probably only give 50% to. Had I remained in that role I am sure we would have made major changes by the end of the year, but the organization had become too political for me and I got the opportunity of a lifetime at the same time.

Conclusion

All in all 2018 was another great year. The year ended much stronger than it started and I feel like I had a lot of personal growth this year. Looking forward to 2019 it is going to be a huge year for our company and for me personally.

Site Upgrade

I decided to upgrade my site to the new version of Ubuntu as I haven’t done that for a couple of years. It is always a nice thing to work on when I am on vacation as it is the sort of thing that I don’t really get around to normally when I am busy. What a pain that ended up being.

The Upgrade for the OS itself went very smoothly as it seems to normally do so for Ubuntu. But the upgrade to the newer version of PHP broke everything with my site. As I think back actually I think this happened last time when I went from Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04 as well and it jumped from php5 to php7. I ended up with about a 3 hour outage trying to sort everything out.

The big issue I saw was the default user that php was using was different than the nginx user so it couldn’t write to the Unix Domain Socket. I also noticed all the configuration advice for nginx was very different than when I set up this site. It seems like things are laid out better with the whole snippets of different configurations instead of sort of everything going in the default.conf. At some point I may want to start over again from a blank AMI image and import my content into it. Then I could setup nginx a little bit more modern. Seems like there are lets encrypt plugins for it too, so I am wondering if I could have it auto-renew my certificates.

Another thing I could do if I redid the site, would be to switch to mariadb. I have heard it is supposed to be faster than mysql it might be fun to mess with something different. That being said I probably won’t get to that this winter as I am currently working on some content for a talk and I also want to spend a little time doing some machine learning classes on Coursera before I get back to work.

I did take advantage of the time in the config files to figure out how to tighten up my SSL Labs score. I found that I was missing just 1 item to push my key exchange test from a 90 to a 100 so I implemented that. I was hoping to be able to turn on TLSv1.3 as well, but unfortunately Ubuntu 18.04.1 ships with a version of OpenSSL that is too old to support it. I saw on a mailing list that it is supposed to be coming though so hopefully soon I will be able to update to that.

Go lang

It has been a crazy few months in startup land. The interesting thing for me about startups is no matter how crazy it is compared to corporate work, I find myself really content amidst the chaos. The big change here is we have decided to build our backend architecture in Go instead of Java. Having done Java for 19 years this is a big change, but for business decisions we decided that the trade offs with Go were better for our long term business needs than the trade offs with Java. Now that I have been using it for a few months I figured I would discuss some of the differences between the languages and what I like and dislike about each.

First Impressions

Just from an initial impression to me, Go seems like a cleaned up C language. You basically have a low level language with primitives and structs, slices (lists in Java), maps, and not a lot more. You end up having to build and write more code than in Java. But in sort of a nod to the good parts of OO they have interfaces and methods that you can attach to structs. At that point it is almost like a super lightweight C++.

I find that I spend a lot more time wiring up code in Go. Having done Spring now for 10 years you spend very little timing wiring up your code as everything is autowired, and you mostly just focus on business logic. Same for SQL Spring Data provides such a nice DSL you don’t write that many database queries either. In my initial analysis it took about 10 times as much code to write a simple REST backend in Go as compared to Spring Boot. But it used 1/10 as much RAM or less. This is the reason we decided to spend more money on Development costs (as it is much more code to write than Java) as we believe the savings on cloud hosting costs down the line will make it a better decision for us.

Go produces a single binary just like Spring Boot gives you a fat jar so I consider them equal here, but the startup time for Go seems to be instant, where as due to all the reflection and wiring at startup in Spring it seems like those apps typically take about 5 seconds to start in my experience (if there is a database involved).

Ceremony

General

Go has taken some steps to remove the ceremony in the language. One of the big differences that I notice is that you no longer needs ()around your statements in for loops, while loops and if statements. I repeatedly find myself putting those in by default and then having the IDE remove them. Another big difference is you no longer have to terminate your statements with ;as the compiler automatically puts those in for you. A little bit like Groovy in that regard.

Iteration

You would think that after doing all that work to remove ceremony that the language would be clean in general. But here is where I see the low level C type stuff come through. In Java if I want to iterate through a list it looks like this:

for (item : list) {

Basically it reads as for each item in the list, and the you operate on it. Go has a range statement to iterate through an array or slice. Here in lies a big difference in Go between Java is that you can return multiple values from a function or method. The designers of the language decided to have the range statement return both the index and the value. Generally in Java if I am using a for each it is because I don’t care about the index, I use a standard for loop if I need the index. Go has the standard for loop but for some reason they decided to return the index as well. You end up having to throw it away if you don’t care about it which feels like more ceremony again so the above statement ends up reading:

for _, item := range list { It is hard to look at that and think that reads better than the Java even though they got rid of the parenthesis.

But even this sort of misses the point as I am not even using for each that much in Java these days instead we have moved to a higher level yet and now use stream operations and handle everything in a functional style. What ends up happening in Java is you spend your time telling the language what you want to happen and let it sort the details of how to do it (lazy execution, or parallel execution, it doesn’t really matter with streams). In Go you spend your time telling the language how you want it to do the iteration so it feels like you are back down in the weeds again.

Initialization

Initializing an empty list also feels like it is more ceremony in Go. In Java you might have:

var list = new ArrayList<String>();

You look at that line and you have the ceremonly of the generics and the () to state which constructor you are calling and then the semicolon to terminate the statement. In go you end up with something like

list := []string{} again I wouldn’t call that better, just different. The ceremony here is the := which allows you to leave out the var at the front and you have the braces at the end which are initializing the struct. It is shorter but again neither seems to read better nor worse, just different.

References

One other big difference which really brings me back to C is you have to specify whether you are dealing with a value type or reference type in Go. In Java all primitives are value types and all Objects are reference types so you don’t have to spend any time thinking about it especially in a world of autoboxing. The drawback to the Java approach is if you need performance and memory compactness sometimes you need to use arrays of primitives and not collections. This is something that can definitely trip up a new programmer. Another problem is if autoboxing isn’t handled correctly it is possible for a NullPointerException to be thrown which could also be confusing to a junior developer.

In Go you have to explicitly thing about whether you are passing a value to a struct or a reference to it. Arrays and slices and maps are automatically reference types but any of your structs you have to explicitly declare if it is a pointer or a value type. For example

type struct Person {
  Name string,
  Age uint
}

pointerToPerson := &Person{Name:"Jeff", Age:41}

valueTypePerson := Person{Name:"The Doctor", Age: 904}

If you want to use pointerToPerson above you have to dereference it with the *. If the pointer is nil you will panic if you dereference it. On the other hand the value type if you don’t initialize it goes to default values so the default for the string is an empty string ""and the default for the integer would be 0.

Concurrency

Concurrency is where Go both shines against Java and feels lacking at the same time. Let’s talk about what is great if you want to call a function concurrently it is amazing you simply do:

go handleData() and handleData() will be executed concurrently. The great thing about go calls is they are extremely lightweight. When I read about project loom where they want to bring fibers and continuations to Java. Because they are much lighter weight than a thread in Java you can have thousands of them without a performance issue. It is my understanding that their is a threadpool underneath that executes your different go routines I think similar to an executor in Java with runables, but again I think the go routines are using much less memory than a Java Runnable.

This kind of light weight concurrency seems to be the direction everything is going whether it is the node system of events and async callbacks or even the reactive movement going through spring. Everyone is trying to execute more things concurrently with a very small thread pool.

There is much more ceremony in a Java Runnable or Callable. First I have to implement an interface and then put my code in a specific method. Then I need a Thread or an Executor on which to execute the code. If it were a Runnable and I needed a return type I would need to pass in some sort of concurrent collection to safely send the data back to the other thread in, or I could return it directly in the callable when I get a future out of that callable that can give me the return value.

Java definitely has a ways to go to catch up to go with the ease of concurrency, but the types are much richer for concurrency in Java so with java.util.concurrent.* one has access to about anything you need. In Go you pretty much just have channels to safely pass data between separate Go routines this again has that simple feeling of C where you are building everything up from primitives vs Java where the libraries are much richer.

Tooling

Here in you can tell how young of a language Go is. To me the tools feel like going back in time to around 2005 in Java. The debugger (delve) is primitive and I often find it not stopping at my break points or not showing me the values of all of my variables. I remember using JBuilder and Visual Cafe and some of the early Java IDEs and having similar issues of the debugger just not working that well. I find myself using printf statements to debug again which feels like going back in time 20 years.

IDE support seems decent though otherwise (if you throw out the debugging issues). I am using IntelliJ Ultimate with their Goland plugin and find myself very productive in writing code. It is the same IDE that I know and love from my Java work, and the understanding of the syntax in general seems to be great. I hear that VSCode is also pretty good for writing Go.

Enterprise Features

This is a small point but one that I just hit in the last week or so and that is that the language lacks support for batching SQL statements. Given that Java is such a strong enterprise language I just assumed that would be built into Go as well, especially given that the language is 9 years old, but maybe most of the internet type software being built isn’t using batch operations to slam a lot of data into a database at once.

Conclusion

At this point I still think Java is a more enjoyable language to program in. I like the higher level you can operate at with things like the stream api, and I like how opinionated Spring is. I think that saves you time setting up a new service and leads to consistency when dealing with new code that you haven’t seen before. Go concurrency model feels like it could be more powerful which is why there is that Java project loom to bring fibers and continuations to the language. The value types are an advantage and result in Go using very little memory compared to a typical spring project, which is again why in the Java world they are working on bringing value types into the language. Go is definitely powerful and fast and effective at what it does. If I were still a C programmer I would probably love it, as it feels like C without all the annoyances. As it stands now I can use it, and it works well, but I am not yet passionate about the language.

Here I go again

This isn’t just a reference to an 80’s hairband song, I have decided to go to work for another startup company. It was just over a year ago when we sold Choose and I took my previous role. When I joined that company I expected to be there for a while. I was given a position to lead the architecture of a new system that had been built by a consulting company to replace a legacy system. Technology wise there were a lot of great decisions made with the new architecture that they had. It was a modern Spring Boot stack, composed of micro services.

I dove into it and started learning the businesses domain. As things sometimes happen in the fall there was a shakeup with the leadership which resulted in the CTO who hired me leaving in January. I was on vacation at the time and I had called into the meeting and heard that announcement. As I sat there thinking about that I was thinking given the trends that were going on, it wasn’t feeling like the culture of the new leadership was compatible with my workstyle. I started thinking about what should I do next.

Out of the blue that afternoon I get a text from my friend Kevin whom I had worked with at Choose. He and another former coworker and friend of mine had started a venture capital fund. Kevin mentioned that they were in talks with a company that they were considering funding and he would like to introduce me to the CEO as he felt like we would work together. After a great initial meeting, I then started doing some meetings with the rest of the team. I was really intrigued by the team at this point. They had a big vision and all around seemed like amazing people to work with.

As things happen the whole fund raising thing takes a great deal of time and I started feeling like maybe it wasn’t going to come together so I started considering some other opportunities as the situation with the leadership at my former company kept deteriorating. My manager left to take a new role, and he was absolutely amazing.

In May the conversation around what we would be working on and my role resumed and we were finally able to get a planned worked out and an offer accepted by the end of June. At that point though I already had my summer travel planned for July so we planned on getting started when I got back from our travel. Once again we had an issue though in that I was rear ended in our minivan and the body shop didn’t repair it in time for us to start our travels up to Minnesota and Wisconsin. We would have been left with just 4 days up there and 4 days of travel which sounded like a nightmare when doing a 1000 mile road trip with 4 children. At that point I requested pushing out my start date another week so that we could have a proper vacation and that wasn’t a problem so we headed north and spent a wonderful couple of weeks with my family.

We headed back to Texas and I finished up my last week of work, and finally at the end of July I started my new role. This is the first time in my career that I was the first engineering hire and this is the earliest stage in a start up that I have ever been able to work on. I just finished up my 4th week of work (I had intended to write this in the first couple of days but I have been too busy to get to it until now), and it has been an amazing ride already. Although I have only been there a month it feels like so much has happened already. I am just excited to be building a new company again and to be diving into amazing architecture and implementation work on a new product.

Apple Watch Series 3 Review

I have been watching the Apple Watch for a couple of years now debating about whether I should get one or not. Initially they looked too limited. The battery life on the initial model was very short and then there was the whole lack of being able to get the watch wet, among other limitations. I decided to sit back and wait a few years and see how it evolved.

The Series 2 started looking interesting, but I still didn’t find it compelling enough to give up the freedom of nothing on my wrist. Finally they announced the series 3 last fall and it started to sound like something that might potentially work for me. First it is setup for swimming with. While I don’t swim very often, for me having a watch on in the pool was always a nice way to keep track of the time. Then factor in the ability to track your workout and get texts and take a call without having to get out and dry off, it starts to look really good for someone who is more active than I am.

I decided to buy a 38mm Series 3 for my wife for Christmas. It sounded like the battery life was getting decent and many of my initial complaints were addressed. My thinking was she doesn’t always have her phone on her when dealing with the kids, so with the watch she would always get my texts or could answer the phone if she wasn’t near her phone.

She used it for a bit, but in the end she found that the battery life still wasn’t quite long enough for her that she would forget to charge it and it would be dead, or if a call came in she couldn’t answer it on the watch anyway as the baby was napping, etc. Given this she decided that we should sell it and she would do something else with the money, so I was thinking well before I sell it I should try it out for a couple of days just to see if I found it interesting enough to get one for myself. Obviously if I were getting one I would go for the 42mm as I find the screen on the 38mm a little bit small, but for testing purposes it would work perfect for me.

In my use I found that I could get about 20 hours out of the battery. That isn’t terrible as it should keep going on your longest days, but in a perfect world I would really like to see the thing last about 3 days. Normally you can just charge it every night so the current battery life isn’t really a deal breaker, but if you wanted to use the watch for sleep tracking, you would have issues with the current battery life. That being said, I don’t think I would use it for sleep tracking as I think having the thing on when I was trying to sleep would just annoy me. I think if I decide to go that route I would rather look at something like the Nokia Sleep which looks much less invasive than wearing a watch all night. At this point with an infant I don’t think really want to track my sleep though as I think ignorance how much many interruptions I have at night is probably bliss at this point.

The integration between the watch and my iPhone X is pretty amazing. You start the music or podcast app and immediately have controls on your watch for what your phone is playing. So when I am out walking the dog, I don’t have to pull my phone out of my pocket to skip a song or to adjust the volume it is all right there on the watch. When I glance at the time on the face I have a watch face that shows me my next calendar event, so I can immediately see when my next meeting is without having to check my phone. All the health metrics (activity and heart monitoring) automatically show up in your health app.

Basically it does what I feel Apple does best, which is to erase the boundaries between their different products. A perfect example of this, is I have a Honeywell Lyric T5 Thermostat. One of the reasons I went with that model instead of a Nest or something else was that it supported Homekit and I wanted to play around with the native integration on my phone. Then when I bought an Apple TV 4K suddenly you can program automations on your Homekit stuff as it just hooks in with the other devices it finds on your network. Granted I could do that before with the Lyric T5 App, but now it is integrated natively in my phone.

The watch is the same way, it gives you tight integration with your phone, and removes more boundaries. The model I have is the Wifi only model. The LTE sounds interesting, but not at the price that AT&T charges for it. I don’t think it adds enough value in my life to justify $10 a month for the service. At $5 a month it could get interesting. My neighbor has one of the original watches and he said he likes how well it works with his airpods as well. So when he is walking he can be playing something through his phone controlling it on his watch all going to his ears with no wires involved and everything just works. If you had the LTE model and a subscription to Apple Music you could even leave the phone behind as you don’t need it anymore. But again I don’t see myself going that route. I own over 4,000 songs, so the idea of renting music doesn’t sound interesting to me as I mostly own everything I want.

The workout app is interesting. I don’t really work out, but I am trying to be a bit more active for health reasons. Most of my activity consists of taking my dog for a walk in the evening. There is an outdoor walk as one of the options in the workout app. Typically I track my walks by having my phone in my pocket and checking Activity under the health app. I usually check how many steps I have at the start of the walk and then see how many I have after my walk to have a rough guestimate of how many steps I walked. The watch still gives you all that, but in addition to that it will also give in real time your distance in miles as well as the time you have been doing that working and what your heart rate is. I find that when walking the dog if I am nearing the end of the walk and I am at 1.5 miles I will push myself a bit and make sure we go for more than 2 miles. I also found it to be useful to sort of push your pace and get your heart rate up, as opposed to just tracking steps, without tracking your speed. Once you end the workout it will also give you the average time it took you to go a mile, and some other stats like average heart rate.

Many of the apps I have automatically have a watch version. I found most of these I have no interest in having on the watch and removed almost all of them. I left the Nokia Health app on there though and it was cool that when I earned a new badge exercising one night on there that it showed the achievement on the watch as well. One thing I disliked is that to remove some of the apple built in apps you have to remove them on your phone. A perfect example of this is the News app and the Stock app. I want neither on the watch, I want the watch to be really focused and just do 3 or 4 things, but to remove those apps from the watch I have to delete them from the phone. Apple doesn’t give me an uninstall option like it does with 3rd party apps. That is pretty annoying as perhaps I want to check my stocks every now and then on my phone I just don’t want it cluttering up my watch app screen, yet I can’t use it in that way.

One of the things I most enjoyed about the watch was getting text notifications on it (you can also get facebook messenger and slack messages there too if you want them). Mostly for when I was driving and I feel a text come in. You can just glance at it quickly at a stop light without having to pick up your phone (or miss the message until later as I do many times now).

So after using it a couple of days do I find it interesting enough to buy? At this point the answer is no. I don’t quite see what the killer app is. It is nice, and somewhat useful, but mostly it just feels like a fun toy at this point. The heart monitoring I must admit I do like. I also like the activity app that sort of nudges you to stand some and be more active. Those are all good things for me. But ultimately it isn’t enough to justify the price.

So what would get me to buy one. Well if I got a gym membership and was swimming regularly I could see myself getting one to track that workout. I think a real killer feature for me would be if the thing could some how do glucose monitoring. I would love to have like real time monitoring of that so that when I ate food I could see how it spiked my blood sugar. I think that kind of tracking would nudge me into eating healthier and would ultimately be the killer app for me. I could also see the watch being a game changer for my friends that are serious about running. The way it gives you the altitude change, average time per mile, weather, and heart rate, would be pretty useful for tracking how your runs are going. My sister does a ton of cardio and I could see her getting a lot out of the watch as well. And with the activity sharing if all your friends are in the Apple Ecosystem it could be useful to try to get a little competitiveness to encourage you to go out and be more active. But in my case it is about 50/50 between the Apple and Android eco systems so maybe some of the people that you want in your activity group you couldn’t get.

Maybe the series 4 will finally deliver the killer feature that will get me into one, but for now I will remain on the sidelines. (There is a rumor that the 4 will offer an even larger screen than the 42mm which sounds nice as well).

Themes for 2018

Introduction

As is tradition on this blog I always lay out some themes to focus on for the upcoming year. These were last years themes if you want to get an idea for the types of things I usually do. I haven’t spent as much time as usual pondering my list this year as I was very busy over my holiday break (at the start with sick kids, and at the end with lots of family activities). Given that today is my last day of vacation I decided it is time to get some things written down. Here are my themes for 2018.

Theme 1 – Health

I started out last year wanting to drop about 50 pounds by my birthday in July (just to get healthier before I turned 40). I managed to lose 30 before my birthday, and then sort of fell off on it in the second half of the year so about half of that came back. So I want to make the same push this year and try to get down to around 200 lbs by my birthday and I am working on my approach. Way back in the day I tried weight watchers and was very successful with it, but always felt hungry on it. Several years later I experimented with the primal diet and found it to be way more effective for me than weight watchers, but a challenge due to limits on foods that you can’t really eat. Last year I lost all that weight following slow carb diet from the 4 hour body. The big advantage of that diet is that you get a cheat day so anything that you really crave you can have once a week. I will probably be doing something between primal and slow carb.

Along that line of thinking one of the priest’s blogs that I follow is doing a program he is calling Nineveh 90 which is sort of his program for physical, mental and spiritual health. He launched it on January 1st and it goes up through March 31st (Holy Saturday). Kind of a lent on steroids. I decided I was going to adopt components of it myself, but not starting until today the 7th as I prefer to celebrate the Christmas feast for the entire 12 days of it.

The components related to physical health that I will be trying to follow in conjunction with eating better are:

  • Regular and Challenging exercise. Not sure I will hit the challenging part, but I will at least try to get close to my 10,000 steps in every day and maybe walk the dog more than usual.
  • At least 7 hours of sleep. I often get tempted to stay up late when reading or when working on some sort of problem and I will try to be diligent and get to bed by 11pm.
  • No alcohol – I enjoy a beer at night generally with my dinner, so I will be cutting this out (which should help cut carbs). I will still allow myself a drink if I am out, so that I can still participate in my neighborhood brew club and if I am out for my wife’s birthday or our anniversary or valentines day which will fall in there I can still have a drink. This should cut a lot of calories and carbs for me as with 4 little kids I don’t get out much.
  • No desserts & sweets – I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so giving up desserts & sweets until Easter is doable, though with the caveat of exceptions for birthdays, anniversary, and valentines day.
  • No eating between meals – This one is going to be more of a challenge. I have gotten into the bad habit of nibbling on a slice of cheese here or a little of this there. This should do a lot to cut out sort of bored snacking, and help me drop that extra holiday weight.
  • No soda or sweetened drinks – This also isn’t much of a challenge. Occasionally I enjoy a root beer float, but those are few and far between so no soda until Easter is easy (and I don’t sweeten my coffee).

So those are the physical health components to the Nineveh 90 stuff that I will be following. There are other aspects related to spiritual aspects as well. I will be adopting some of this as it seems like a good challenge for the start of the year and sort of an extended lent this year. In the original program you can relax the discipline on Sunday and Solemnities, but I will be relaxing the discipline instead as I noted above. The relaxed part sort of reminds me of the cheat day in slow carb, relax one day a week so you can keep it up the rest of the time. The final component he lays out is fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. He suggests bread and water only if you are medically fit otherwise standard Catholic Lenten fast. I think I will probably fast and only do water and coffee on Wednesdays and maybe not eat until supper time on Friday (since Sofi and I usually eat something together on our Friday nights after we get the kids to bed).

Theme 2 – More blogging

This is sort of an annual one for me. But generally I try to make it a priority anyway. This does compete for a limited slice of time though. After work generally I Am busy with the kids for a couple of hours. After we get them to bed I still need to walk the dog and get some exercise in and hang out with my wife and try to read, and sometimes do a bit of work. So this one will continue to be bumped as it needs to, but I will try to stay in the habit and find some time on the weekend to work on a post here and there.

Theme 3 – Learning

This for me means lots of books and playing around with ideas on the computer. I have just started Effective Java 3rd Edition and it is great as expected. I haven’t quite gotten to the part about the updates for Lambdas and Streams, but I look forward to seeing the insights there. Other things I am playing around with on the learning side are messing around with a bit of Swift. I have a udemy course I was working on for iOS development under Swift. I did some over paternity leave and would like to play more with it. Also have been playing around with Kotlin some. I like most of what I see in that language. Maybe I will do a Java vs Groovy vs Kotlin type post about what I like or dislike about each of the languages. I think Kotlin gets nearly everything right, except for having classes final (not open) by default. I think that was a mistake. I have always been looking a bit at Node.js and Express just because of all the hype it is getting and I want to play around with the newer versions of Angular and the whole progressive web app concept, since I spend most of my time at work focusing on backend development.

Theme 4 – Architectural changes at work

I have already started some of these this fall. Part of this will be shifting more of our app to Java away from Groovy. I think Groovy in an enterprise app is a mistake. It is the opposite of fail fast, instead the compiler hides errors, and it just feels dated after using Java 8 / 9 features. Their closures are inferior to lambdas and streams, and the tooling around the language just isn’t that good.

Included in these architecture changes will be trying to get our services updated to Spring Boot 2.0 when it finally releases and then shift to the Java 9 or 10 platform (instead of 8). I would also like to look into rolling out the SonarQube build breaker to enforce our coding rules, that has worked well for us in previous companies that I have worked in.

Conclusion

I think working on these 4 areas will be plenty to keep me busy this year. If I am diligent about them it should also give me topics to blog on. I started this post on the 7th, but I had to finish it up tonight. My year is already starting out busy and I don’t expect it to slow down at all from here. Happy 2018 everyone!

2017 year end review

Recap for 2017

Now that I am off of work for the rest of the year I decided that it was a good time to work on my annual year end review for 2017 and see how my year went. This is the post I did at the start of the year for my plan on what I was going to focus on: Themes for 2017.

I am going to start with just an overview of my year and then I will drill down into my themes. 2017 was a whirlwind of a year. In the 4th quarter of 2016 we made a push to make Choose a profitable company. We achieved that by the beginning of the year and in my mind we were going to run hard for another year and really grow the revenue and hopefully sell the company in 2018. Instead the board decided to sell the company in May which led to major changes for me.

The new company decided that they didn’t want to keep a remote office and I was not in a position to be able to relocate my family so I knew that I would have to find a new role. As luck would have it on the day preceding the announcement of the acquisition I had received an email from a recruiter with a role that seemed like a perfect fit for me. The timing was perfect as my 4th child was 4 months away and that is a scary time to have the stress of job uncertainty. That ended up working out perfectly so I was able to transition into a new role by the end of July. The whole Choose experience was very bittersweet. One the one hand we did what we set out to do which was see a positive equity event for everyone. We built up a pretty amazing business and it was a wonderful experience to be a part of that. On the other hand it meant breaking up the strongest engineering team that I had worked on in my career, and it left me with a lot of what might have been if we could have run one more year. In my imagination I feel like with another year of growth we might have been able to go out at a valuation 3x higher, but perhaps instead the Hurricanes in south Texas would have completely killed our Texas business in our busy time of the year, so maybe we lucked out selling when we did.

The next major change in my life was the arrival of my 4th child. If you want to see anything kill blog updates take a new job and have a new born. It has definitely been a transition year to adjust to the new changes in our life. In sad news for 2017 my best friend has been fighting cancer this year. I am looking forward to the announcement in 2018 that he has finally beat it, and life can go back to normalcy.

On the stats side of thing I ended up with 20 blog posts for the year (including this post). That is actually only 1 worse than 2016, but in 2015 I had averaged about one post a week, and that is much more in line for where I would like to be. Given the change I was dealing with this year I am pleased that my post count wasn’t even lower than it was. I had a pretty good start at the beginning of the year which carried me through.

And now on to the themes:

Theme 1 – Update the blog

I am going to call this a fail. I was pretty much non existent the last part of the year. But there is always next year to do better. Sometimes life gets crazy busy.

Theme 2 – Regular reading

I would call this a win. I am sort of surprised that I was able to keep my reading up with a new born and the lack of sleep. My favorite technical book that I read in 2017 was Functional Programming in Java by Venkat Subramaniam. Of all the regular conference speakers Venkat is my favorite. He has a way of taking complex topics and breaking them down and making them very intuitive.

Another book that I really enjoyed this year was Angel by Jason Calacanis. I am very interested in the startup scene in general having worked at 3 startups now in my career. And I found this look from the investor side very fascinating as well. It really makes me want to focus on reaching accredited investor status in the next 5 years and start investing in some syndicates on AngelList. Then again with the trend this year of Initial Coin Offerings and people skipping the whole VC thing and going directly to the blockchain to raise money who knows what that space will look like in 5 years.

Back when I was in high school I used to read a lot of fiction, but these days I mostly just read non fiction. However I was talking about the Dark Tower series that I had read back in the day by Stephen King with a coworker and he mentioned that there was a book released between 4 and 5 a few years ago that I wasn’t aware of. I immediately had to buy it on my Kindle as that was one of my favorite series of books that I have read (though I hated the end). I read The Wind Through the Keyhole when I was out on paternity leave and it was perfect. I was too exhausted to taking on any heavy reading, but a little fiction in the downtime was really relaxing.

I also read Never split the difference by Chris Voss. Prior to this I had never really read anything about negotiation or looked into the topic. I wasn’t aware of the author or this book, but I heard him on a podcast interview. I was intrigued so I bought the book and read it, and found it to be very valuable. It is probably worth rereading that one in 2018. I actually put a few techniques from the book into practice this year in some negotiations and found them to be very effective. I would say I got my money and a lot more out of this book just by applying what I learned.

For 2018 the 2 technical books on my radar right now are: Effective Java 3rd Edition. The second edition of that book is one of the most timeless books for professional Java developers and is still extremely relevant after all these years. What I am looking forward to in the 3rd edition is ideas on best practices regarding Lambdas and Streams. I went ahead and preordered this book.

The other book I want to dive in more in 2018 is Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans. I started trying to dive into this over my paternity leave, but in the state of exhaustion I was in I found that I didn’t have the brain power to tackle this at that time. Now that I am getting better sleep again I would like to work on this book some more and play around with the design concepts in it.

And the third book I am planning on picking up in 2018 and working through is Learning Spring Boot 2.0 by Greg Turnquist. I have the first edition of Learning Spring Boot by Greg and the book was phenomenal. It got me up and running really quickly when I wanted to transition from the old Spring Monolith architecture to a microservices architecture, and I put the book into action when I joined Choose Energy. 2.0 dives into the new reactive programming model in Spring 5.0 and Spring Boot 2.0 which leads into the next theme…

Theme 3 – Learn about reactive programming

I would call this theme a failure. I did start playing around with reactive a bit in June around the end of Choose before I started my current role, but I didn’t get very far into it. I think I will use the book I mentioned above in 2018 to take a deeper dive and figure out if I see a role for this in our current service architecture.

Theme 4 – Architectural Changes at work

We did roll out service 3 at Choose, but unfortunately we didn’t get to build it to its full potential. We just had something interesting in place when the acquisition took place. This really only reached half of what we envisioned for it. I think it would have been a game changer for the company as we would have had a capability that no one in the energy market has which really would have increased stickiness of our site. I think that is part of my what might have been thinking earlier in this post about the acquisition.

Theme 5 – Master Angular / lodash

I definitely didn’t master angular. I will say I got more proficient as we were reworking the funnels quite a bit near the end of 2015 which started getting me more into the front end code. I figured with what we were doing at Choose that would have grown quite a bit, but after the new position, there has just been too much back end code to learn and understand to really dive into the front end yet. I started playing a tiny bit with angular and progressive web apps a bit on the side to get a feel for how that works, but I didn’t get a chance to dive too deeply into it.

Theme 6 – Healthier eating

I think I did a great job on this in the first half of the year and a poor job in the second half of the year. I dropped 30 pounds in the early part of the year using the slow carb diet out of the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I neglected to mention this book above but it was clearly a great book for me as well as I saw a huge benefit out of it. Slow carb is interesting, in some ways it is easier to do that Primal since you get the cheat day each week. I think that makes it more sustainable long term as the things you really miss you know that at most you are just 6 days away from being able to eat. But even so I really only maintained this until I went into Intermittent fasting for lent. I have some new diet ideas I am playing around with to try out for 2018.

Conclusion

All in all 2017 was a great year. There were definitely a few lows and things that could have been better, but on the balance things were good. As always even if I don’t hit my themes I don’t get too upset about it. There are just too any unknowns to take it too seriously. The real goal of the themes are to challenge myself and to review just to hold myself accountable that I am trying new things and growing. The point is to avoid getting complacent. I am starting to kick around some ideas for new themes for 2018, and that is probably what the next blog post will be.