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Vacation in California

We just got back from a lovely vacation in California, we had an amazing time.

We first did two nights in San Francisco. We stayed in the Hotel Vertigo, famous for it’s role in the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo. We rode the trolley and toured the trolley museum where they power all of the cables throughout the city (powered by GE). We walked all around town (roughly 5 miles each day), including over the Golden Gate Bridge. Other than it being a bit cold and damp it was a very fun time.

Our next stop was the Napa Valley. We returned to the Napa River Mill Inn, this time for a two night stay. The first night we took the Wine Train again, the dinner train is definitely recommended since you get the sunset on the way back. The second day we did a 6 hour limo tour of various vineyards.

Here’s a list of our favorite wines from the trip (bottles were purchased):

  • Chase Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (2012)
  • Chase Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
  • Prager Sweet Claire Riesling (2012)
  • O’Brien Estate Seduction Bordeaux (2009)
  • O’Brien Estate Passion of the Soul Cabernet Sauvignon (2010)
  • Charles Krug Zinfandel Port
  • Charles Krug Carneros Pinot Noir (2011)
  • Mumm Cuvée M Champagne (2008)
  • Mumm Blanc De Blancs Champagne (2008)

Next we went off to Lake Tahoe for the next 4 days. We stayed in a friends lovely little cabin on the south side of the lake. Interestingly, we later found out that the cabin was the Mondave family’s first cabin in Lake Tahoe many years ago. This was the first time my wife and I had been to Tahoe. While the water might be a little too cold for our taste, the scenery was amazing. We also did some fairly challenging hiking up to Horsetail Falls, but got some great photos out of it too.

Short Trip to Michigan

We’re going to be vacationing in Tahoe this summer so we decided to take a quick trip to Michigan in June. The weather was fantastic! We saw Nick’s new house, photos of camp fire and cherry picking below. I also stopped to visited my colleagues at the GE AMSTC (Advanced Manufacturing & Software Technology Center) in Van Buren Township, lovely campus.

Send off from the Jacksonville Crew

The Jacksonville team gave me this video for a send-off today. Awesome guys, it was a great time!

Moving to Atlanta

As many may have already heard, we’re getting ready to move to Atlanta. Earlier this year I was promoted to the position of Product Architect Leader in the Optimization Solutions group at GE Transporation. While I’ll still be heavily involved with the Jacksonville group’s technology vision, I’ll also be working with the folks in Atlanta and Austin. The move starts in about a week, but I’ll be officially working in Atlanta on March 18th. We have a cool loft in Atlantic Station in Midtown, I’ll send some photos once we start to get settled.

We’ve got to know a lot of great people in our time in Jacksonville and we will miss you all. Feel free to stop in and visit us in Atlanta any time.

Holidays in Michigan

We spent the holidays in Michigan as usual, but I managed to get away for almost 3 weeks this time! I had tons of time to spend with friends and family.

Here are some photos of my niece and nephew, both very cute kids.

AngularJS vs. Backbone.js

After ruling out several javascript frameworks including JavascriptMVC, EmberJS, Knockout, and a few others, we were down to two choices: AngularJS and Backbone.js.

While AngularJS is a little light on OO class functionality, it has a lot of great features that enable very fast development. Some of these problems can be mitigated by pairing it with Closure, which it is intended to play well with, and are both Google frameworks. Backbone.js seems to have a little stronger foundation for applications, but is missing a lot of really important features (strong templating, 2-way data bindings, etc). There are a number of plugins for Backbone which fill in these gaps, but industry and community support for them is mixed.

After a couple days of research and debate, we’ve decided Angular shows the most promise. We’re going to give Angular a try on a smaller application before we commit on any big ones. Check out the AngularJS Tutorial, applications come together very quickly. The Twitter Bootstrap plugin is also worth a look.

My 2012 Fiction List

Several years ago I followed the book list of a gentleman who worked Sun Microsystems, Rich Burridge. I thought I’d start returning the favor for whoever shares the same interests. I managed to get through a number of fiction books this year, below are the ones that I would recommend.

The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends

It wasn’t all that long ago I started listening to The Flaming Lips. I had heard a few songs over the years, She Don’t Use Jelly, which had a fairly different sound compared to their later works, Do You Realize?? and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. I never really took too much of an interest though.

After hearing their The Dark Side of the Moon cover album I had a fresh look at what they had done in past years. When I listened to their albums I was shocked to discover their music reflected a lot of the elements from great albums by The Pink Floyd, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but with a decidedly experimental electronic sound. They have a number of great albums over the years that are worth a listen, namely Clouds Taste Metallic (1995), Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002), Ego Tripping At The Gates of Hell (2003), At War With The Mystics (2006).

Now to “The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends”. I picked this up as a 2012 Record Store Day release. While there is less consistency from song to song on this album than some others, it’s eclectic and very entertaining. This album was built as a collaborative work with more than a dozen different bands. Each track has a fairly unique sound however it comes together quite nicely. This album reminds me a bit of Beck’s Stereopathetic Soulmanure or Cake’s B-Sides and Rarities in that it’s a bunch of different things all mashed together. These albums aren’t greats, but are really just a lot of fun.

This album is now released digitally, it’s worth checking out. On a side note, their new album will be out soon, you can listen now here.

Ribbon.co Payment Processor

While Stripe would likely be my payment processor of choice if I were to build something requiring ecommerce tomorrow, this new service called Ribbon is pretty neat. I can see this being far easier to setup for non-developers or if you were a more casual seller. This would surely beat PayPals horrible customer interfaces any day.

https://www.ribbon.co/

iPad Mini Review

I picked up the latest iPad Mini on Wednesday, my experience so far is slightly mixed but overall quite good. I already had an iPhone 5, a Kindle Touch, an iPad 2 and two MacBook Air’s (one for work). Where does this fit in you might ask? My hope was that it might replace my iPad 2, my Kindle and some percentage of my personal laptop (maybe I don’t upgrade as soon as I might have otherwise). So how did it do?

Well over a year ago when we were testing next generation devices at work for field users the BlackBerry Playbook was my favorite simply due to it’s size. Unlike the iPad, it was small enough to use one handed yet was much more practical for complex use than a smart phone. The big thing that brought the device down was its horrible software. While the iPad Mini is a hair wider than the Playbook, it’s significantly lighter and the software is much, much better. At the time the iPad was running circles around every tablet on the market with regard to software speed, quality and features. Today there is much fiercer competition, such as the Google Nexus 7, however I think Apple still brings a superior polish to both the hardware and the software.

One of the other things this form factor also does well with is two thumb typing in portrait mode. Pulling that off on the iPad was a bit of a stretch, and I have big hands. On the iPad Mini this is an easy way to type. While this does not have a retina display, the resolution is he same as the iPad 2 but on a smaller screen, the slightly higher DPI looks decent. The benefit here was app developers didn’t have to change anything to support this device. There have been a few instances where my slightly farsighted eyes have struggled with some small fonts, but it’s probably something that will improve over time as developers become more conscience of screen size verse resolution on iOS devices.

Another key feature my model has is LTE. This is certainly where the iPad has the ability to pull ahead of the laptop. Having the ability to instantly power on and not having to deal with finding a wifi hotspot is a big convenience. Leaving LTE on while on WIFI has no noticeable drain on battery compared to my WIFI-only iPad 2. I’m on AT&T’s Mobile Share plan, which means I’m only paying $10 per month for the convenience, but I do need to watch my bandwidth usage. It’s amazingly quick, nearly on par with my Comcast connection (it actually has faster up speeds).

I have to admit, I was a fairly casual user of the iPad 2. I was a bit disappointed to find that a lot of the apps I have for my iPhone don’t have equivalent iPad apps. Also, while the ability to use single handed does eliminate a challenge during long reading periods, the backlit screen does still seem kind of rough on the eyes. I still plan on experimenting with different contrasts and colors in the Kindle app, the jury is still out on this feature.

After two days usage overall I’m liking it. Given the superior form factor (in my opinion) and the lower price, I can see this is replacing the iPad as top seller.