Posts in category personal - page 2

May 2008 checkpoint

I am now settled into my new, albeit temporary, apartment here in Vancouver, BC working for Microsoft!

Joining Microsoft

For those who haven’t been following my blog long I took a job at Microsoft Canada Development Center as a developer on LINQ to SQL. It turns out my H-1B Visa has been approved and I will be moving down to Redmond in October.

Joining a company of Microsoft’s size is a daunting experience. The sheer number of people, departments, systems, procedures and intranet sites to navigate and learn plus of course the actual job of jumping into the product and seeing where we go from here. I’ve also been helping out a little on the forums and internal lists and getting involved in the regular scheduled update meetings.

Of course you also hear all sorts of interesting news just before it becomes public knowledge such as publishing XNA apps to Xbox Live! and Office getting ODF and PDF support.

On the personal front…

A whirlwind couple of weeks full of new employee orientation, relocating, getting lost, filling in forms, exploring, meeting a couple of hundred people and catching up with a few old friends including one from Guernsey all of which lead to a quiet blog.

There have been some personal stories of getting lost, baby sharks and falling in lakes which will be kept to email now – there’s no way those 500+ subscribers are here for my personal bits! I’ll be sending out an email this week so if you haven’t seen something by the weekend and we’re friends ping me and I’ll forward you on a copy.

Some photos are up on Facebook with a few more to follow.

Envy Code R

Of course what everybody really wants to know (according to my inbox) is where Envy Code R preview #7 is.

It is coming, but every time I think I’m close to a release I find another annoying glitch all related to hinting.

Hinting is the process whereby you tell the rendering system how to shape the characters to better fit into a pixel grid. It consists of a table saying at which sizes to smooth and apply instruction plus a program that adjusts the font as a whole for a given size and then a program per-glyph that tells it how to adjust the points in relation to each other with delta hints providing modifications for specific point sizes.

It’s a complicated process if you’re doing it at the lowest level with a tool such as Microsoft’s Visual TrueType but is made easier with a tool like FontLab Studio 5 which has an auto-hinter that often gets things wrong but is a lot easier to work with and works with hints at a higher level of abstraction.

Which is why I parted with $999 on FontLab and I’m going to investigate a donate option to try and recoup some of those costs.

The bold variant is the only one now requiring hinting and I’m hoping to have it done in the next 24-48 hours. The regular variant looks just great… as does italics.


Joining the LINQ to SQL team at Microsoft

I’ve been quiet on my blog lately largely because I have been preparing to change job and relocate half-way around the world to Vancouver in the beautiful province of British Columbia (where I spent my 2004 summer holiday).

In February I traveled out to Redmond for three days of interviews (one position grew to two, then three). Having read the Microsoft Jobs Blog I was prepared for long hard days but in reality the process was incredibly enjoyable and exciting.

So much so I wanted to find a desk and move in right then.

With some luck I also found myself at Hanselman’s geek dinner which involved some great discussions and the chance to meet Scott himself, Brad Wilson and Nikhil Kothari who I knew from .NET on-line community as well as some ~35 other developers from both within Microsoft and the outside world. It was one fun evening and my thanks go to Scott for kindly driving me back to my hotel in Redmond town center.

Many white-boards and a few lunches later (including an unexpected one with Phil Haack, Nikhil and two more guys from ASP.NET team – I wish I could remember all the names of the people I met!) I found myself with the hard task of choosing a position.

I settled on a developer role within the LINQ to SQL team starting mid-May and am counting down the days…


Year 2007 personal retrospective

What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

I visited Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond.

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make any.

What countries did you visit?

England and US.

What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

The opportunity to work on some great products / solutions.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

My blog has really taken off in 2007, traffic is way up, posts are way up and it’s proving to be a useful reference for myself and others :)

What was your biggest failure?

Not shipping any major projects.

What was the best thing someone bought you?

I got so many great things for Christmas – a lovely new giant laptop bag, some great DVD’s and books too!

Whose behavior merited celebration?

My girlfriend Steph for being so understanding about how much time my hobbies take up.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Nothing that strong in my life!

Where did most of your money go?

In the bank!

What song will always remind you of 2007?

I must confess I’ve not been paying any attention to the music industry for a while. I guess Radiohead’s Rainbow will stick in my mind for 2007 not for what it sounds like (I didn’t listen to it) but for the attention it got by putting it out direct for consumers to name their price.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • Happier or sadder? Same.
  • Thinner or fatter? Same.
  • Richer or poorer? Richer.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Put up more samples on my blog, more adventure in life and more discussion and development of ideas.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Less idle browsing of the net, less sleep ;-)

How do you plan to spend Christmas?

I spent it with my family including a 24-person lunch which my mother, sisters, step-sister and aunt managed to somehow co-ordinate to great effect.

What was your favorite TV program?

Takeshi’s Castle although The Mighty Boosh was also great.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Who has time for that?

What was the best book you read?

Gateway by Frederik Pohl.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I’ve been listening to Podcasts more than music.

What did you want and not get?

Career development but I’ve only myself to blame.

What was your favorite film of this year?

Hot Fuzz.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Spent the evening with Steph and enjoyed a relaxing 33rd.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

More Esprit less skater :D

What political issue stirred you the most?

National ID database in the UK. As if their fiasco with the child database wasn’t evidence enough of this ticking time-bomb of an idea.

Who was the best new person you met?

I met some great people out in Redmond including Jonathan, Aaron & James.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007?

Opportunity might come knocking but it still needs chasing down.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Bouncy bouncy, ooh such a good time Bouncy bouncy, shoes all in a line Bouncy bouncy, everybody somersault Somersault, summertime, everybody sing along Bouncy bouncy, ooh such a good time Bouncy bouncy, white socks falling down Bouncy bouncy, stilettos are a no-no Bouncy bouncy, ooh, bouncy bouncy ooh Every time I bounce, I feel I touch the sky!

— The Bouncy Crimp, The Mighty Boosh


MacBook Pro 17″ 2.6GHz ordered

Since moving house I have been using my MacBook Pro 15″ 2.0GHz at home, for contracting and even for the odd diagnostics and organization in the office.

The last 20 months have been a bumpy ride with the logic board being replaced twice once for whining and the second time when the inner memory slot went dead. The battery has been recalled and the power supply cable started melting and the paint started flaking off the enclosure but thankfully Apple sorted out all these problems rather swiftly with advanced replacement parts and speedy repairs through local service centers iQ Guernsey and Guernsey Computers.

Every company has problems with products, especially first revisions, but how they deal with them is important and one of my logic board failures was a couple of months out of warranty but their customer services department authorized the replacement anyway. Such service counts for a lot in my book and so now I have outgrown my notebook another MacBook Pro will be it’s replacement…

My paltry 100GB disk space got eaten up with an extensive music library and plenty of 10 megapixel RAW digital camera images. Subtract a 15GB Boot Camp and I was soon looking at external storage. Parallels and Visual Studio 2008 meant I needed to up from 2GB to 4GB of RAM and I found myself constantly missing my 24″ Dell monitor. I also need to be able to test 64-bit applications now that I am developing Cocoa apps.

The Apple Store UK just added the 2.6GHz processor and 200GB 7200RPM drive options this week and although Guernsey is barred from The Apple Store UK local re-seller iQ matches their ex-VAT prices on Pro gear so on Saturday I ordered my new dream machine complete with the high-resolution 1920×1200 anti-glare LCD (no glossy mirror for me thanks).

They also have friendly shop staff unlike Guernsey Computers (although Vernon in their service department is helpful if you can get to him). One thing I really can’t stand though is Apple’s pricing policy on RAM.

To upgrade from 2GB to 4GB they want £450 extra! Crucial UK will do a 4GB kit of the same spec for just £98. I’m not alone in this observation.

It’s just insanely ludicrous.